Saga of Bohok Chapter 3

Chapter 3

 

The gulls were the first to find them, their shrieking calls bringing Bohok out of his sorrowful state of mind.  Bohok once again looked at the great dead beast and made his decision; he had to tell the tribe.  He untied the rope from his hand and let it fall to the ground. He gave the creature one last look, turned, and dove into the river. Swam quickly to the other side and started running, not even bothering to shake dry before he started.

It was a long run back to the tribe. He had been in exile all summer. He had camped alone on the banks of the river waiting for the travelling fish to come up stream and with them his redemption. He had gone as far downstream as he dared without infringing upon the territory of the Root-Eaters.  It was almost dark by the time Bohok saw the smoke rising from the scattered cook fires of the Fish-Eater village.

The village was settled into a small glade cut by a stream which provided fresh water to the tribe before it joined with the great river. Bohok looked down at the village with apprehension. He had been cast out of this place, forbidden to return by the edict of Chief Yoosin himself. Without the first travelling fish or Chief Yoosin’s pardon he could be killed by any Fish-Eater as a stranger and an outlaw.  Bohok knew the sweat breaking on his forehead wasn’t entirely from his long run.

He took a second to gather his breath and his nerve before walking down the well beaten path towards the village. He had decided what he would do; it was too late to turn back now. Bohok swallowed his fear and walked into the village.

As Bohok walked past the first wicker house he admired the craftsmanship. He had been gone so long that it was like he was seeing the work for the first time. The Fish-Eaters weaved willow branches into everything. They made baskets, and bowls, as did all the peoples, but they also made more elaborate items. A Fish-Eater house was made of willow mats weaved so tight that it was impervious to all but the hardest of rains and the strongest of winds. They made looser mats in the winter to lay over the ground to keep people from sinking into the mud and snow.  Bohok had even seen smaller versions that strapped to feet and allowed the wearers to walk on top of the deepest snows. Especially skilled weavers could make fantastic items; like duck decoys that floated in the water to attract their kinsman close enough to have a net cast over them. Bohok had taken the wicker shelters for granted until he had to weather a summer thunderstorm alone with only his hide blankets to keep the rain off his head.

As he made his way through the outskirts of the village the children began to gather around him at a safe distance. He could hear their whispers as he marched toward the center of the village. He heard excitement in their hushed voices. Something was going to happen, but the children could only speculate as to what that would be.

He made his way through the village catching the eyes of both wives and their husbands cooking their dinners on the fires in front of their homes. Soon many grown men joined the crowd of children following him. They did not try to stop him, nor did they whisper among themselves they simply followed Bohok, silent and stern.

When Bohok neared the center of the village he saw the great house. It was made of logs stacked up atop of each other instead of wicker. The house was large enough to fit the entire clan within its walls. All the men of the village worked together to maintain it and the people used it as a meeting place and a sanctuary from the strongest winter storms. It housed Chief Yoosin, and his wife and family, but they only used a quarter of the structure.

In front of the great house there was a large fire pit. The fire pit was surrounded by semi circles of log benches. This was the fisherman’s fire, the communal gathering place and the site of Bohok’s ignominy.

Chief Yoosin stood in the center of the fire pit stacking logs for the night’s fire over a bed of kindling.  It was the chief’s duty to prepare and light the communal fire and Bohok knew that the old chief took great pride in only lighting his fires once.  The chief was strong for a man his age; his muscles were well defined as he stacked heavy logs atop each other. He was so engrossed in his work he did not notice Bohok, or the crowd surrounding him. Bohok stood silently watching the chief work not daring to disturb him.

The chief finished his work and then straightened putting his hands on his lower back stretching out the tight muscles. Without turning the chief spoke, “What brings you back to the people young Bohok?”

Bohok stood silent for a moment; he was sure that he never saw the chief’s eyes turn from the fire pit. How did he know he was there? “I, um,” Bohok started he began to feel foolish for coming here, and he didn’t know how to explain what had seen. “I came here to tell you that there was a great fish in the river, bigger than any fish I have ever seen before.”

The crowd exploded into a roar of nervous laughter. Bohok slouched; he had known that they would laugh at him. Nobody would believe his tale until he showed them the fish, of course they would laugh; he would have laughed. He had thought he had prepared himself for it but the laughter stung nonetheless.

The chief turned to look at him; his eyes were not mirthful but curious. He held up a hand and the laughter stopped abruptly.   “A great fish you say.” The chief said. “Describe this fish to me.”

“He is all black except for his belly and huge,” He spread his arms as wide as he they could go.

“A sturgeon!” A familiar voice called out from behind Bohok. “He caught a sturgeon and he comes to brag. We’ve all caught sturgeon longer than our boats. It is no great feat.”

Bohok turned to face Kirso, red flashing before his eyes, but he controlled his temper. “This is no sturgeon.” He spat, then turned back to the chief. “It isn’t a sturgeon.” He repeated. “It is as big as your house, bigger maybe, it is the biggest thing I have ever seen.”

The chief looked at Bohok pensively for a moment then asked, “Does it breathe air?”

The crowd exploded into another roar of laughter. The people thought that the chief was teasing Bohok for his lies but Bohok suddenly knew that the chief knew better. “Yes.” He said loudly “Well it did before it died.”

“Where did it breathe from?” The chief asked.

“From the top of his head.” Bohok answered.

“I have heard of these fish.” The chief spoke to his people, ending their laughter abruptly.  He waited until the crowd was completely silent then he asked Bohok. “Where is the fish now?”

“On the sandbar beyond the last deep channel.” Bohok spoke into stunned silence then added. “Where I caught him.”

“You caught the great fish?”

“My net is still around his head.”

The chief walked up to Bohok and looked him in the eye. Their gazes locked for a moment. Bohok felt the same uneasy feeling he had when he was looking the dying beast in the eye, except he felt like the one who was dying now, the one who couldn’t breathe. Finally the chief spoke, “You must take us to him.”

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Published in: on October 15, 2009 at 8:14 am  Comments (1)  
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One Comment

  1. a whale ?

    such mysteries in life, oh how great it is to have knowledge of what puzzles all, enjoying your story , Lystra Pitts , and thinking how Weldon must be in another world as he reads it.

    It’s such a gift you have for your words to transport others deep into other worlds.


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