Saga of Bohok- Chapter 6

Chapter 6

The rest of the trip was made in complete silence. Bohok focused on synchronizing his paddling with the chief’s to maximize their effort.  It still took a long time for them to make their way up the river. Bohok was exhausted from rowing so long alone and the chief’s age began to show after a while. Still when they arrived at the village the entire tribe was standing on the shores waiting for them.  

Chief Yoosin jumped out of the bow of the boat as they ran it into the bank.  He spoke to Bohok as he pulled the boat up onto land. “I must go and light the fisherman’s fire. You will stay with me tonight in the log house.  These people are eager to hear your story. I suggest you only tell them a little. Save the whole story for the fire. “

The chief scooped up his bag from the boat and walked through the crowd.  Bohok looked up at them. There were so many faces looking eagerly at him.  Several people reached out hands to help him from the boat. Bohok cautiously took them and they nearly lifted him off his feet.

Bohok found himself in the middle of a swarm of people. They pressed close, reaching out to touch him. He heard the questions but could not identify the speakers from within the mass of people. They all asked the same questions, over and over again, they came in an endless stream. “How big is it? How did you catch it? What does it look like? Where you scared? Are you proud?”

Bohok wiggled through the people, first he tried to answer the questions but he was always cut off by more. Finally he decided that the chief was right. He spoke as loudly as he could without shouting, “I will tell you all tonight at the fisherman’s fire.” He repeated the same answer over and over as he made his way to the log house. The crowd around him seemed to grow at each turn, until Bohok wondered if there was a person in the village that wasn’t crowded around him. He smiled to himself, it felt good, to be the center of all this attention.

Finally they reached the long house and the fire pit. The chief had the bon fire roaring. He was smiling into the blaze, pleased with his work. Most of the men who had accompanied them down the river already sat in their usual places on the logs surrounding the fire.

The crowd around Bohok dispersed as wives went to sit next to husbands and children went to sit at their father’s feet. Soon the bowl surrounding the fire pit was full of every man, woman, and child in the village. The air hummed with excited voices as the tribe settled in.

Bohok stood at the lip of the bowl and looked at all the people of the clan. He hadn’t seen the clan gathered since his banishment. He hadn’t realized how much he had missed them until he saw them all assembled together. These were his people, no matter what his bloodline.

The chief beckoned him down to the fire. Kirso and Yannin were already sitting down at the center of the pit next to the chief. Bohok picked his way down through the people to join them.

The chief patted Bohok on the shoulder and motioned for him to sit down next to Kirso. Bohok looked down at the log that Yannin and Kirso were sitting on. Kirso had deliberately sat far enough away from Yannin that Bohok barely had enough room to sit. Kirso smirked at Bohok as he sat down on the narrow section of log that was left to him.  Bohok teetered on the edge of the log as the chief began to speak.

“My people,” the chief held up his long pole. “We have been given a gift from the River. It has bestowed upon its people a great bounty. A great fish has come up the river and Bohok has caught it.”

The chief looked down with a smile at Bohok. Bohok smiled back, and he noticed that Kirso was fuming and distracted. Bohok used the moment to push up against Kirso and scoot him over a little, buying him some more room on the log.

“This isn’t the first time such a fish has come up the river. It happened before, long, long ago. In those times they named this great fish. They named it a whale. I so name it today. This whale will provide a bounty to all our people and even to the other tribes. It is our duty to call upon them and let them know that…”

Kirso shoved back against Bohok, putting an elbow in his ribs and nearly pushing him off the log.

“…we have received this great gift. In past times a feast was held when a whale was given to the tribe. All the peoples were invited…”

Bohok planted his feet in the sand and slammed a shoulder into Kirso knocking him into Yannin. He quickly scooted over on the log. Yannin pushed Kirso back towards Bohok and glared at both of them.

“…to share in this gift from the spirits. I have chosen three of our men…”

Kirso pushed Bohok off the log. Kirso started to shift into Bohok’s spot but Yannin grabbed his arm and held him in his place.

“…to go to the other tribes and invite them to our village. To enjoy our hospitality..”

Bohok scrambled back up on the log, careful not to draw the chief’s attention. He shot Kirso an angry look.

“…and share in the bounty provided by the whale. I have chosen Yannin.” The chief gestured to Yannin. “To go down the river and tell the Root-Eaters.” Yannin stood.

“I chose Kirso to go up into the mountains and tell the Elk-Eaters.” The chief pointed proudly to his son. Kirso stood up next to Yannin

“And I chose Bohok to go over the mountains and tell the Bug-Eaters.” Bohok stood as well.

“These brave young men will be our voices, calling our brothers and sisters from distant tribes here to join with us.”

The people cheered. Bohok felt a surge of pride like he had never felt before. He felt loved and honored, he let the feeling sink in as the chief continued.

“As Bohok caught the whale in his net. I think it is only fitting that we allow him to tell the first tale of the fisherman’s fire.” Again the crowd hooted and squealed.

“Bohok.” The chief addressed him. “Would you tell us how you captured the great fish?”

Bohok nodded and began telling his tale. He told them about swimming out to the sandbar. He told them how he thought that his net had caught a log and about his surprise at being pulled into the water by the whale. He told them about being dragged through the water and finally bringing himself to the surface. He described to them how the creature breathed from the top of its head. How its skin felt, what it smelled like. He described the awesome power of the whale as it beached itself on the sandbar. Then he described looking into its eye as it slowly died. Bohok tried to give the people as much detail as he could. He acted out much of the action, showing them the things he could not tell.

When he was done the tribe was silent. The only sound coming to Bohok’s ear was the popping of logs in the fire. Then one man started thumping his staff against the log at his feet, an acknowledgement of a story well told. Then another and another joined him. Women and children began clapping their hands, stomping their feet, and cheering. Bohok could not help but smile.

Then Kirso started laughing. He laughed so loudly that the people stopped clapping and cheering. He held on to his sides he was laughing so hard. Kirso’s friends in the crowd started laughing with him.

The chief spoke, “What is so funny Kirso?”

“That you would applaud that story.” Kirso wiped tears from his eyes. “That is not a story of triumph or bravery. That is a story of dumb luck. Did you hear the same tale as me? He did not catch the whale, it caught him.”

Bohok felt his temper rising, but he fought it down. Kirso was goading him, trying to get him to dishonor himself like at the last fisherman’s fire. Bohok steeled himself against Kirso’s words. He would not fall into that trap again. He had spent too many nights reliving that horrible night to make the same mistake twice.

 “This man is a half blood fool.” Kirso laughed. “Who was nearly drowned by a fish that caught him.”

“Kirso!” The chief glowered at his son. “You shall not speak to Bohok that way.”

Kirso glared at his father. “You are always standing up for him.” He complained. “Why can’t you see him for what he really is? He does not belong among us. He is a dirt washing Bug-Eater and a liar.”

Bohok’s fists tightened into balls. He squeezed them to keep his temper in check.

“No Kirso. He is a man, like you and I. You will treat him with the respect a man is due.”

“I have no respect for this liar. He said he caught the whale in his net. He did no such thing. He said it himself; the great fish swam onto the beach. He did not catch it. That business about looking into its eye, saying it was like a man’s eye, like the great fish had a soul. I have never heard such an outrageous lie told in my life. I have looked into the eyes of hundreds of fish and I never felt like one was communicating with me. I have had enough of his stories.” He launched himself forward and shoved Bohok’s shoulder. “I have had enough of his lies!”

“Kirso!” Chief Yoosin yelled.

Bohok didn’t remember hitting Kirso. He could remember being pushed and he could remember Kirso laying on the ground holding his bloodied nose. The only way he knew he had hit him was that his hand hurt.

“Bohok!” Chief Yoosin turned to Bohok. His face was red with anger. “Help him up.” He pointed down to Kirso.

Reluctantly, Bohok obeyed. He reached a hand down to help Kirso off the ground. Kirso slapped it away with a growl and stood on his own.

“Did you see that father?” Kirso spat out a glob of blood and snot. “That is your Bug-Eater. He does not follow the Way of the River.”

“And neither do you.” Chief Yoosin retorted. “You have brought me much shame this evening.”

“But Father!” Kirso started but the chief silenced him with an out stretched hand.

“I will hear no more words from you tonight.” The chief glared at Bohok and Kirso.

“I have never seen two people who were so alike hate each other so much.”

Bohok was shocked by the chief’s words, he was nothing like Kirso. He saw his own disgusted look mirrored in Kirso’s face.

“I have tried to guide both you boys in the Way. I have failed! Tonight I have given both of you honors that you do not deserve.”

Bohok’s knees went weak, he wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to stomach hearing this.

“I cannot let this go unpunished.” The chief looked at Bohok and Kirso. “As the Elk-Eater Tribe lives on the way to the Bug-Eaters you shall accompany each other to both villages. You will not leave each other’s side. You will return together or you shall not return at all. Get into the house and prepare yourselves for your journey. You will leave this village before the sun rises. I do not wish to look upon you until you return.” The chief pointed to the door of the house. “Go!”

Kirso lowered his head and started into the house. Bohok looked out at the crowd of people, and into their shocked faces. He wondered what they were more surprised by; his and Kirso’s outburst, or the chief’s. Bohok had never seen the chief lose his temper. He doubted that any of the tribe ever had either. Reluctantly he followed Kirso into the log house.

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Published in: on January 21, 2010 at 10:25 pm  Comments Off on Saga of Bohok- Chapter 6  
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