Saga of Bohok-Chapter 4

Chapter 4

The sun had just begun to set, starting the long summer twilight. The sky reflected on the water and made the boats look like they were travelling on a river of gold. It had taken Bohok half the day to run up to the Fish-Eater village but the boats, aided by the current took but a quarter of that time.

The boats rounded the last bend in the river and revealed the great fish, a black mountain of flesh atop the sandbar. Bohok sat in the bow of Chief Yoosin’s own boat, and he could clearly hear the gasp of the other men in the boat as they first glimpsed the fish.

Bohok tried to hide his smile as he jumped out of the boat and pulled it up onto the sandbar. More boats pulled up on the sandbar, they carried most of the adult men in the tribe. Few men failed to follow the Chief down the river.

The Chief leapt over the side of the boat with a grace that belied his age. He walked slowly towards the great fish. His footsteps were careful and quiet like a stalking hunter.  When he reached the fish he outstretched a hand and placed it carefully on the creature, like he was trying to penetrate a mirage. His eyes widened with surprise at the feel of its hard flesh.

He ran his fingers along the smooth skin and walked down the length of the creature, carefully examining it as he walked. He paused to look more carefully at its giant mouth, Bohok’s net still dangling from it. He paused again at its eye, stared a moment into its depths and then moved on. He paused at the flippers and where he could see the blow hole on top of its head.  When he got down to the creatures tail he nodded to himself.

When the chief turned away from the beast he found himself surrounded by the men of the village. They crowded around him eager to hear what the chief would say. Bohok stayed back out of the crowd of men, but still close enough to hear.

“Clansmen.” Yoosin spoke using the deep formal voice he used for proclaiming judgment, “This fish is like no other fish that you or I have ever seen but it has been seen before. There are stories of this fish told by the chiefs of our people. This fish was known by the chiefs of old. So I know it too.”

“Chief Yoosin.” A tribesman as old as the chief himself spoke, “We both have seen many visits by the travelling fish, weathered many winters together but I have never heard of such of beast, no such fish has been seen by me in all my time, nor did my father or my father’s father every speak of such a fish.” He looked at the great beast. “As I am sure they would have.”

Chief Yoosin nodded. “The last time this fish was seen by a Fish-Eater was seven generations ago. Kagin, your father never saw this fish, nor did your father’s father or his father before him.” The crowd of men stirred, Bohok heard murmurs of disbelief quietly emerging from the crowd. The chief silenced them by raising a wrinkled hand.

He pulled a doeskin bag off his back and reached into it. He produced an intricately carved piece of wood, he held it up for all the men to see. “This is my Chief’s pole. I have carved on it every significant event that has happened to the people during my time as chief.”  Intrigued Bohok pushed his way through the crowd, clear up to the front, to see the carving.

He pointed to a scene on the pole it showed the trees shaking and people beneath it cowering in fear. “This represents when the earth shook two summers ago.” He pointed to another carving of a river and the fishermen holding up empty nets. “This is when the so few travelling fish came five springs ago.” The men in the crowd all groaned in unison, remembering that miserable spring, they had been forced to trade with the Elk-Eaters and the Root-Eaters for food, many went hungry and a few starved.

The chief looked apprehensively at Bohok before pointing at another scene. It was a man walking with a pregnant woman. “This is when Arnas returned with his foreign wife.” Bohok stared his mouth falling open. Arnas was his father, and the woman had to be his mother.  He had never seen his mother.

He looked at the figures carved into the pole, the man looked like his father so he could only hope that the woman’s likeness was as accurate. She was beautiful, as he always hoped she would be, but strange looking, wearing odd clothes, Bug-Eater clothes.

 The chief saw Bohok gaping at the pole and handed it to him. Bohok ran his fingers over the forms carved into the wood. Touching the likeness of his mother and father brought tears unbidden to the boy’s eyes. Bohok wiped his eyes furiously trying to stop the tears, mortified that the men of the village were seeing him cry. He looked up to see several of the men looking at him with wet eyes of their own, chief Yoosin among them. He handed the pole back to the chief with a nod of thanks.

The chief lay the pole down in the black sand and brought out another pole from his bag. It too was full of elaborate carvings. “This is the pole of my father.” Chief Yoosin announced. He pointed out several carvings and told the story of them. Only the oldest men of the tribe nodded with the remembrance of the events. The chief lay it down next to his in the sand. The chief retrieved yet another pole from the bag and held it up. “This is my grandfather’s pole.” He put it down next to his father’s. He pulled out three more poles each as elaborately carved as his own and lay them down in the sand.

“These are the poles of the six chief’s that lived since the great fish last came up the river.” The chief spoke pointing to each of the carved staves. He reached into his bag and extracted another pole. The pole wasn’t made of wood but a brilliant white stone the likes of which Bohok had never seen. The men of the tribe all gasped as he pulled it out of his bag and held it up for them to see. “This is the pole of Chief Hunnan.”

All the men pressed close to see what was carved on the pole. Bohok saw that the top of the pole was carved in a likeness of the great fish himself complete with a spout of water rising up from the top of its head.  Below the great fish the scene carved into the stone was of a great feast many people eating at a long table.

The people were all dressed differently. He saw many dressed as Fish-Eaters with simple clothes. Then he saw some with beads and feathers, the way the Root Eaters who came to trade dressed. There were men in heavy furs and antler headdresses, Elk-Eaters. Then there were others dressed like his mother, like Bug-Eaters.

“This pole is proof that the great fish has been in the river before. It is carved from the bone of the great fish itself.”Bohok stared at the pole. It seemed too hard, too shiny to be bone, but he knew the chief would not lie.  “It shows the great fish, and the great feast it provided. The last time the great fish came up the river Chief Hunnan called for a great feast. He sent runners to all of the peoples so that they could come and join in the bounty. The great fish was cut up and shared among all the tribes they took its meat back to their peoples and not one person went hungry that winter.”

All the men smiled and looked at one another. Even among the Fish-Eaters with the river and the travelling fish, famine was not unknown, winter was always harsh and food had run out before. The Root-Eaters and Elk-Eaters had a harder time of it, often coming to the Fish-Eaters to trade for food.

The Bug-Eaters had it worst of all. They lived on the other side of the great mountains in the desert. They traded for most of their food with the Elk-Eaters but they starved as often in the summer as they did in the winter. Bohok knew that their name wasn’t based off what they mostly ate like the other tribes, but what they often had to resort to eating in lean times.

“We will call a great feast. I will send runners to all of the peoples.” Chief Yoosin announced. The sun was finally gone the light fading around them fast. Bohok heard two pieces of flint being banged together and soon several cane torches burned brightly around the men. The chief dug back into his bag and pulled out three figurines, each carved from the same shiny bone as the pole.

 The chief held the figurines out and Bohok saw that they were carvings of the great fish, identical to the one atop the chief’s pole. “I will give each runner one of these. The chiefs of all the peoples will know what it means and that the runner speaks true. Each runner will invite the peoples back here where we will prepare the feast and dry as much of the meat as we can.”

The chief picked one figurine out of his palm. There was an Elk carved on one side of the great fish. “This is for the Elk-Eaters. They make their camps high in the mountains, the journey will be long and perilous. I choose my son Kirso to have the honor or delivering the message of the feast to them.”

Kirso’s face lit up with pride. He knelt before his father and took the figurine. Bohok scowled, it frustrated him that Kirso was given honor for the great fish. The fish that Bohok had caught not the loud mouthed Kirso.

The chief picked another figure out of his palm. The figure had a flower carved into the side of the great fish. “This is for the Root-Eaters. They make their camps far to the south on the plains. They live farther away than any other people but the river flows close to their lands. Yannin is best with a boat and has the strongest arms for rowing. I choose him to row down to deliver the message of the feast.”

Bohok knew that Yannin was the strongest rower. No one could ever beat him in a race but he frowned when the chief put the figurine in his hand. He was getting angry, it was his fish but all the honors were going to the pure blood Fish-Eaters. He was becoming certain that they were going to ignore him, even in this.

Chief Yoosin held up the last figurine. It had a mountain lion carved into the side of it. “This will go to the Bug Eaters.” Chief Yoosin looked around at the men gathered around him. His eyes searched the crowd for the face of the man he wished to send. They passed over Bohok and he held his breath. He wasn’t sure if he even wanted to go to the Bug-Eaters but he wanted to receive some honor for his catch. Then the chief’s eyes moved on. Bohok felt defeated. Then rage overtook him. He spun and began walking back to the boats, his eyes filling with tears yet again.

He shoved his way through the crowd.

He couldn’t believe the chief wasn’t picking him.

It wasn’t right.

It wasn’t fair.

It wasn’t…Bohok heard something fly over his head and land heavily at his feet. He looked down to see the white Bug-Eater figurine embedded in the black sand.

“Bohok.” He heard the chief’s voice call to him. “I think if you are leaving you should take that with you.”

Published in: on December 9, 2009 at 11:29 pm  Comments (1)  

One Comment

  1. It’s a Christmas gift ! Reading a good story,
    Thanks be, for all writers !! Tis the season
    to be happy, we are happy to have a good story
    by a writer we know and love!!

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