Warrior’s Code

Posted: March 13, 2014 in Short Story
Tags: , , , , , ,

elephants-in-black-and-white-johan-elzenga

It has been the hottest and driest summer to date in Kenya. There isn’t a creature alive not feeling the pressure to adapt or migrate to gentler lands.  The wells have been drying over the decades, but this summer, some springs have completely quite.  The land cracks under the sun as stinging sand is picked up by the violent winds.

A young boy looks to his mother for food and nourishment as she moves the tribe from plain to plain.  Theirs is a matriarchal society and his mother is their Chief. She is the wisest and strongest of their clan, not to mention the most stubborn.  Some say she charges forth when we should run, and her raids on neighboring farmers have become too constant.  They fear her boldness will get them all killed.  It is a hard life for a nomad, but the climate won’t allow them to stay still.

Amboseli has found a small open spring deep enough to bathe in.  She alerts her tribe as they gather.  Few take point as they listen for lions and the deadly Maasai.  Mara, the young boy looks to his mother Amboseli as she gently sprays him with water and for a brief moment, they allowed themselves to play.  Amboseli slowly rose, mud covered and cooled to take point as another took her place in the water.  She sniffs the air.

“Mom,” Mara, the young inquisitive asks, “what are you smelling?”

Amboseli’s heart swells with pride as she cuddles up next to her beloved son. Her large deep brown eyes are shadowed by her long thick lashes.  She blinks away the dust. Her husband died a long time ago, leaving her to raise Mara.  The Maasai took from her husband his very bones, they wear them like trophies, sell them to others who do the same.

Still holding Mara she replies, “The Maasai, smell.  If they have become angry, if they think our tribe has stolen from them – they will hunt us.  So I sniff the air to see if they come from the direction in which it blows.  We most always have eyes from where the wind does not come.”  She nods her head towards the other sentinels guarding the tribe.

“Why do they hate us so?” Mara continues.

“We all fight to live. We drink water, they drink water, but there is only one spring.  We eat, they eat, but there is very little to forage.”  She strokes his back.

“Do you see the light in the sky, there?” She nods to the sun and Mara nods in recognition back. “It wakes us every day and allows us to sleep every night.  We travel in one direction.  We make sure as it wakes we travel towards it, but we do not follow it as it grows old and dies across the water above.”

Another slowly stomps closer.  A large elder male, weak from age and lack of sustenance  inquires when they will forage again.  Amboseli knows there is nothing to eat, nothing that could feed her entire tribe without having to raid once more.  An ominous feeling grows in her stomach.

“We should raid tonight.” Amboseli announces to fearful moans from the tribe.

Even Mara knows why as he argues back, “We can’t!  The white ball is full, we will be seen!”

Amboseli hears the fear in his voice as she reaches down and continues to stroke his back… soothing him as best she could.  Mara is correct; they all knew this, even Amboseli, but they needed to eat.  The break of water has given them all enough strength and hope to steal from even the Maasai.

Mara watched as the tribe drew straws to see who amongst them would raid and who would stay to defend.  The weakest of them did not participate in this ritual.  Amboseli did not draw for it is a given that she will lead the raid.  Mara monopolized his mother as best he could until the light in the sky died and the ball floated towards its death.

Amboseli released her sleeping boy as another childless mother slowly slid into her place.  She placed her forehead against the surrogate, eyes watering.

“Love him as I have.”  She begged.

Ma gently squeezed Mara as she pressed back, agreeing to obey with every cell – Amboseli’s request.  She watched as Amboseli gathered the raiders and disappeared into the blue lit landscape.  Mara wrestled slightly as his mother’s scent disappeared from the air.

Mara dreamed of his mother.  He dreamt of rolling green grass waving across the plains; playing hide-and-go-seek with his mother.  The grass was so tall, but he could sense her as he crept.  Once he was close enough to tag her she would popup scaring him.  Mara would scream and run away as she launched at him.  His tiny legs were dwarfed by her stride as she would scoop him up and cuddle and nibble him until he choked with laughter.

As the sun warmed his skin forcing his dream to fade, Amboseli smiled “Be strong Mara, you are my sun.”

Mara awoke crying.  The tears had stained his cheeks attracting the dust to the trailed edges.  He did his best to wipe it away as Ma looked on.

“Let us get some water before we move.”  Ma recommended.

The sentinels were in their usual position; some were being relieved and slowly waded in the ever lowering pool.  Mara looked back, looking for a glimpse of the party, for a heat warped shadow that looked something like his mother; there was nothing.  He knew they would have to move on without them, this had been done before but Amboseli’s nose was always so keen they managed to find each other.  Mara had little hope this would occur. He had no proof one way or the other; he just knew he would never see his mother again.

Ma, the next in line for Chief studied the position of the waking light.  She looked back over her heavy shoulders and saw Mara pensively staring at the final footprints of his mother stamped into the ground.  As the light moved further and further across the water above Ma called to her tribe to prepare to leave.

Mara sill frozen on his mother’s final steps, managed to break free.  He could hear his mother’s voice asking him to be strong as he pulled away.  Ma waited until he fell in line.

Suddenly a large cry was heard from the south.  It was one of their own, but Ma knew it wasn’t Amboseli.  The few that returned were bloody, but dragged stalks of corn and bamboo behind them.  Ma stopped the migration and allowed the tribe to regroup and feed before moving on.  A large warrior walked to Mara and sat down before the young child. Mara could see the flesh of the warrior was spotted with large long scars and a chunk of his ear was missing.

“Amboseli, your mother, led us in to the village.  She made no sound as she led us to the fields.  We gathered as much as we could, but as we were trying to leave the Maasai men were ready.  They wore flowers to hide their smell as they came at us with black leaking sticks.  She fought proudly so that we may eat.  She will always be remembered as a great leader.”  The strong warrior rose to bow to Mara.  He gently stroked him as his mother had and then turned to wade into the water.

Ma slowly moved in. “You must eat.” She pushed some morsels in front of him.  He turned away.

“Your mother… I am now your mother.”  She pushed the food again and turned around to leave.

Mara struggled to eat as his throat worked against him.  His heart was broken.  Tears flowed heavy and dampened the food as he brought it to his mouth.  Ma called again for the tribe to move. They all obeyed.  She waited for Mara to sobbingly join the group.  He always followed behind his mother and took up the rear in her absence. Ma called for him to join her.  Mara didn’t hear her at first, lost in the wanting for something he will never have again.  Eventually he trotted up to her.  The tribe bowed and moved out of the way as he went.

Ma reached down and gently ruffled the hairs on his head.  “I love you Amboseli-Mara.”

Amboseli-Mara, he thought, I will honor her life.

A hundred moons past and Amboseli-Mara has become full grown and started a family of his own.  Ma was aging fast, but still led the tribe from water hole to hole, from plant life to plant life, and raid to raid.

The large warrior that had delivered the news to Mara as a child had taken the long walk to the grave not long after that. Amboseli-Mara’s wife was strong and in training to become the next Chief.  They had one large male child, almost full grown and a new young baby girl.  Mara named her Amboseli.

As they were migrating towards where the light wakes Ma suddenly jerked her body and froze.  The others raised their noses to the air.

Ma roared, “Flowers!”

The scent was on the wind.  Ma moved silently but fast across the plain trying to distance the tribe from the masked scent of the Maasai.  They moved as a flock of birds staying in front of the wind.  Suddenly one of the large warriors roared as he saw the red cloth of the Maasai male robe.  They were led, herded to their end.  Ma turned away, trying again to lead the tribe out until another Male was seen on the horizon.

“We’re trapped. This is a trap.”  Another warrior roared.

Amboseli-Mara nudged his loving wife and held his daughter for as long as he dared.  He started to move away from the tribe.  Ma called for him, but he would not turn around.  Ma called again as he refused.  His son tried to join him but his wife moved in the way.

“Protect them. Defend them. Keep them fed, keep their mouths wet.”  Amboseli-Mara called to him.

Now he did turn around.  He saw his son standing fast to his mother, weeping, protectively.  Ma roared again and the dust flew as the tribe tried to find a way out.

Amboseli-Mara, slowly walked towards the standing Maasai.  The Maasai male was quickly joined by many others.  Amboseli-Mara marched slowly, waiting for the Maasai to gather, hoping he has distracted them all.  They are a tiny people, but their tools and team work make them deadly.  Amboseli‑Mara had never seen, smelt, nor faced a Maasai warrior.

It’s about time, he thought.

His ears wiggled and stuck back as he roared. “Amboseli!”

The tiny Maasai grabbed their spares jabbing them at him as he came.  The tiny warriors did not move or budge as he charged. Amboseli-Mara felt the first spare in his side as he threw the tiny holder to his death.  He then stomped out the five others before him; hearing their bones crack and pop through the flesh as blood filled the air.  Mara had gone berserk.  The dream from over a million years ago reentered his mind, his loving mother, her warmth, her charm, her love.  He crushed them all.  Those he did not flatten he tore apart, slamming them into the ground like rag dolls.

Amboseli-Mara tore the red fabric from their bodies to dob at his wounds.  He was out of breath as he surveyed the dead.  A Maasai male’s chest was rising and falling, Amboseli-Mara squashed him before moving on.  He stole the food and water from the dead for his tribe.  He began to feel dizzy as he tried to return.  The light soon died and the crescent rose to take its place as Mara trucked back.

The light from the crescent wasn’t enough to make out the shadows, and the air around him was still full of blood and poison.  He could not locate his family.  He struggled further and further, growing heavier and dizzier with each step.  Before the light could wake, Amboseli-Mara fell hard to the ground.  His breathing became labored as his large eyes slowly blinked.  He felt the warmth of the waking light before him.  He saw Ma charging towards him, alongside his wife, son, and tiny Amboseli.  He exhaled.

Ma leaned down and took the stolen goods for the tribe; she called for them to move on for she knew the Maasai would be right behind Mara.  Mara’s son tried to refuse, but Ma spoke sense.

“He died protecting us, as his mother had.  To leave him exposed will slow the Maasai.” Ma tried

“Then I will great them as they come.”  Enya demanded, consumed by his juvenile anger.

“You will rejoin the tribe.  Mara-Enya, you will live today.” Ma instructed.  “Let them take your father’s bones, eat his meat, cut off his nose.  This is a body, not your father.”

Ma escorted Mara-Enya back to the tribe.  As they moved on Mara-Enya saw far off the red garb of the Maasai swarming about the body his father once inhabited.

The Maasai, still grieving over their lost, cheered at the site of the dead Amboseli-Mara.  They rose their machete’s and took from the dead warrior, his ivory, his trunk, and his meat.

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