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Authors: Linell Jeppsen

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BOOK: Onio
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Mel
looked up and what she saw made her heart pound in dread.
This must be the
rest of Onio’s people
, she thought. About thirty sasquatches had entered
the large cave and stood together in a group, regarding her suspiciously. None
of them looked very friendly. Mel glanced back at her captor and saw him lift
his chin and square his shoulders. He no longer looked young. Now he seemed
just as fierce, just as formidable as some of the beasts that faced her with
bared teeth and angry eyes.

“What
do you mean, Onio, bringing this creature here?”

Again
the words formed in her mind, and the sasquatch that spoke used a long, wooden
spear to emphasize his words. The point of the spear came perilously close to
Mel’s eyes and she winced.

“Stop,
Drak…I command it,” Onio snarled.

The
dogs stirred in agitation. Mel sensed the unease of the tribal members at the
open hostility between the two big males. She didn’t know who this angry sasquatch
was, but he clearly had a voice amongst his people. Many of the other sasquatches
looked to Drak as though he had the final word.
If that’s the case
, Mel
thought,
I’m in big trouble
!

Drak
seemed to puff himself up. He looked more like the pictures she had seen on
magazine covers and newspapers than Onio did. He was taller than Onio, with
long arms that reached past his knees and a bear-like face. His heavy shelf of
brow almost obscured his eyes, which regarded her with malevolence. His jaw was
under-slung and bristled with square, yellow teeth and two upper canines, which
were at least five or six inches long.

“Onio,”
he growled. “You know that we never bring the little humans into our midst.
They are dangerous and dirty. They talk, talk, talk all the time. They escape
and tell the others. Then we are hunted down and killed…or worse! You are
young, First Son, but even you have heard what happens to those of us they
capture! They experiment on us! Your own grandfather suffered such a fate, and
still you take this risk!”

Drak
punctuated his words with his staff, thrusting it in Mel’s direction. The
shepherd, as though sensing the “little human” as a threat, rose to its feet
and lifted its lips in a snarl. Once again Onio raised his hand, and the dog
sank back on its haunches.

“I
understand your concern, Drak, but this human did not choose to come here. It
was an accident that brought it here...an accident I caused. If it had perished
I would bear the burden of guilt.”

“What
was this accident, my son?” Another sasquatch stepped forward. It was clear to
Mel that this was a female. Although she carried a sort of sling that covered
one arm and shoulder, her breasts were bared. Her features were finer…more
human looking than Drak’s. She was actually quite beautiful, with little fur on
her body, but reddish brown hair that reached past her knees.

Mel
could see the family resemblance between the female and Onio…the large,
greenish eyes and slashing brow, the finely formed lips. Mel wondered,
suddenly, if there was human DNA in the mother and son’s blood-line.

“There
was an auto accident,” Onio stated. “I was slow in crossing the road and this
human was startled to see me. She lost control of her vehicle.” He paused for a
moment and added, “At least, I think it is female. It was my fault.”

“What
matter these little humans and their automobiles?” Drak sneered. “Those
automobiles pollute our atmosphere and kill many animals! Why should you
concern yourself with the fate of this…this thing?”

Mel
watched the faces around her and realized that most of the members of Onio’s
tribe agreed with Drak. Her eyes grew wide as she understood that her reprieve
from certain injury and death might be short-lived. She hugged herself in fear.

Another
female, who had been studying Mel carefully, stepped forward and raised her
hand to be heard. This one appeared very old, as she was bent with age and her
fur was silver. Wrinkles radiated from her eyes, creasing leathery cheeks. The
hair on her head was carefully braided and spangled with colorful bits of
stone, feather and fur.

“Onio…First
Son, have you gifted this little human with the soul song?”

For
the first time Onio looked nervous. He stared down at the floor of the cavern
and scratched a toe across the stone. Mel could sense in his demeanor that he
had done something wrong…taboo…and he had just been called on it.

“No!
It is forbidden!” Drak raged.

The
other sasquatches seemed to agree. Although Mel couldn’t make out every voice,
the emotional temperature within the group rose dangerously. Every dog in the cave
stood. Mel could see that they were readying for an attack.

“Stop
it!”

Mel
could barely hear the words, but instantly the sasquatches mental cries
quieted. Even the dogs obeyed, sitting down, tails wagging in obedience. Mel
looked into the shadows toward the back of the cave and saw an old, old sasquatch
being carried toward her on a litter. He was shrunken and frail. Although Mel
could see he must have once been huge, his tall frame was emaciated and all of
his flesh hung off his bones like an ill-fitting cloak.

The
old male was set on the floor by two young and very large sasquatches. He
stared up at Mel with interest and said, “Grandson, why did you gift this human
so?”

Onio
shrugged. “I thought that something was wrong, Grandfather. She did not hear the
snows coming and could not hear my words of warning. She does not know how to
use words! Later, she admitted that her ears are damaged…she cannot hear.”

The
old one nodded. “So you gifted the little human with our most precious
resource? You took it upon yourself to open passages within this woman’s brain
that most humans would not be able to tolerate, much less control? Do you
understand, Onio, what you have done?”

The
words were harsh. Onio hung his head in shame, while Drak postured proudly. The
others shook their fists in rage. Mel was watching the old sasquatch though. He
seemed to be staring back at her in a friendly manner.

“Can
you hear my words, girl?” the old one asked.

Mel
stared into his eyes for a moment and nodded.

Drak
threw his long arms into the air and stamped his foot in anger. The other sasquatches
huddled together, whispering amongst themselves. It seemed much quieter now, as
though the group as a whole had decided to cloak their thoughts…the soul song…from
her.

It
had been wonderful while it lasted. Mel hung her head, fighting back tears. It
seemed like a cruel jest to hear the spoken word for a few precious moments and
to lose it just as quickly. She felt like a starving woman who had just been
offered a feast, only to wake suddenly and realize that it was a dream. Then a
voice spoke.

“Do
you understand how to form words, child?” It was the old sasquatch. Mel knew,
without a doubt, that her fate lay in his hands.

She
hated to talk. She mangled words no matter how hard she tried, but she knew she
had to respond verbally. Her soul song was too new and it seemed like a bad
idea to encroach upon something the sasquatches treasured and held aloof from
others.

She
nodded, clearing her throat. “I…don taw too werw…,” she whispered, blushing.

“How
does your head feel? Are you feeling ill from your accident…or from what Onio
did to you?” The old sasquatch glanced sharply at Onio, who looked down again
in shame.

For
some reason Mel
was
starting to feel bad. She was tired, stressed and
fearful, but she thought she was uninjured by the joy ride she had taken over
the guard rail. Now though, her head ached, her throat hurt, and every muscle
in her neck and upper back throbbed. She staggered and sat down with a groan. One
of the littler dogs, some sort of terrier, came over to her, sniffing
inquisitively.

The
old female with feathers in her hair knelt by Mel’s side. A giant warm hand
covered her forehead and moved around to the back of her neck. Fingers probed
and Mel gasped, crying out in pain. The little dog wormed its way onto Mel’s
lap. She wrapped her arms around the animal. Tears streamed down her cheeks;
tears of pain, fear and loss.

***

The
old woman, whose name was Rain, used soul song to speak. “This little human has
been injured. There is no blood, but her muscles are torn. Also, she is starved
and needs to rest. What Onio has done will take time for her to process…if she
is able to, that is. She will be sick for a while.”

She
pushed Mel down with gentle fingers and waited while a large, somewhat smelly
fur was placed over the shivering girl. She stood up and addressed her husband,
Bouldar, who was clan king.

“Our
grandson has been stupid, husband, but you know already of his desire to study
the little people. Especially now that he knows their blood runs in his own
veins.”

She
stared at some of the tribe members with cool challenge. Most of them looked
away, but some gazed back in defiance. She regarded her sister’s son, Drak, and
sighed.

“I
think that we should wait for this female to rest and recover her strength. A
few days won’t hurt. We were not planning on leaving here until the new moon,
anyway. Maybe our grandson will quench his thirst for knowledge if he is
allowed to study the human for a while.”

“No,”
Drak objected. “It would be simpler to throw the creature to its death. Onio,
in his ignorance, only interrupted the natural flow of events. You yourself
teach us this truth, Auntie!”

Rain
winced. Her nephew was correct…life and death, fortune, weather, good hunting,
a healthy body…all of these things were pre-ordained. Had her grandson
inadvertently altered the fate of the tribe? Had disaster struck at last? She
studied her husband’s eyes as Drak shouted to be heard above the clamor of
panicked voices.

Bouldar
smiled. The tribe quieted and stood still to listen to their leader.

“Drak,
you will be still and endeavor to help your nephew.” Drak clenched his mighty
fists in frustration, but bowed his head in submission.

“Rain,”
he continued. “You will care for this creature. If she recovers by the time we
move east we will let her go home. I don’t believe her people would believe
her, even if she could make herself understood.”

Rain
nodded, gesturing to her two daughters to bring warm broth to the patient. She
caught the look of excitement that crossed her grandson’s face, noting that he
kept his eyes respectfully lowered. He would be king someday, she knew, but his
curiosity often got in the way of common sense.

“Help
me stand!” her husband demanded. The king’s young guards helped the old sasquatch
to his feet.

“Bring
me the staff of office,” he stated. Onio looked up in alarm, as did the rest of
the tribe.

“Onio,”
Bouldar announced. “You will undergo the test now for your transgressions… ten
strikes!”

Rain
turned away, shaking, as the rest of the tribe gasped in shock.

Chapter 4

 

For
four days, Mel drifted in and out of consciousness. When she was able to swim
up from the tendrils of death that held her, she dreamed vivid and horrifying
dreams.

Once,
she sat up with a start and saw a scene from Dante’s Inferno. She saw a huge
hairy man being flogged by a branchless tree trunk. The tree was very large and
the branches on it had been cut crudely so that long splinters sprouted from
its surface like jagged teeth. The man was held in place by long ropes of vine
that were hung from stalactites so that his feet barely touched the floor. He
was screaming while others of his kind either cheered in triumph or wept with
sympathy.

Another
time Mel awoke in a hospital room with nurses all around her. She felt like she
was in familiar territory, but wondered how she had changed places with her
mother. Her mom held her wrist in one large hand and peered into her eyes with
concern.

“Mama…,”
she croaked, and drew back in alarm when her mother’s face disappeared. Now she
was surrounded by monsters. Their giant hairy faces leered down at her. Their
mouths sang an eerie chorus Mel couldn’t hear, but understood. The hospital
room dissolved into a small cave and her crisp, white sheets were replaced by a
scruffy fur blanket. She shrugged it off, screaming, before succumbing to the
healing darkness once again.

Finally
Mel awoke to voices. She felt a little better and her head no longer felt like
it might explode. She looked over to the far side of the cave and saw Onio being
tended to by the old sasquatch female. He looked pale and shaken. The old one,
whose name was Rain, rubbed some sort of ointment on Onio’s back. Although
their lips didn’t move, they were talking. Mel closed her eyes and listened.

“Onio,
what he did was just,” she murmured.

“Just!”
Onio snarled. “The test is designed to punish the worst criminals…murderers,
and rapines! What I did was not even a crime! Why did he bring his grandson,
who would be king, to his knees?”

Mel
peeked at the two sasquatches through her eyelashes. She saw that Onio’s head
was bowed and that his shoulders heaved with sobs. Rain stood some distance
away and wiped her hands clean with a rag. She regarded her grandson with an
eyebrow raised in equal parts exasperation and love.

BOOK: Onio
9.69Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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