Chapter 7 – What About Her
A couple of days later, leagues away from the village, Ayira sat on the edge of a mountain ridge, staring at miles and miles of open land below. Then she laid on her back and looked up at the clear sky, and fell asleep. Soon, she was awakened by the sound of a horse approaching. Lifting her head, she saw Little Sparrow riding toward her, so she put her head back down and closed her eyes again. He stopped his horse next to Ayira and smiled.
“Are you sleeping? You’re not dead; I see you breathing.” Ayira kept her eyes closed.
“I looked all around for you and I remembered you walking over here once before.”
He waited for her to respond, but she ignored him and did not open her eyes. He dismounted his horse and walked up to sit beside her. A few moments passed as he stared at the land below before Ayira opened one eye and sighed. She finally sat up and Little Sparrow smiled again. They both sat quietly staring at the vista before them, but when Ayira noticed a herd of buffalo running, she became excited.
“Look at that,” said Ayira in her language.
Little Sparrow smiled and said in his language, “Buffalo.”
She stared at the buffalo and whispered to herself, “Buffalo,” in his language.
She glanced at the boy to see if he had heard her, but he had not. She stood and continued to stare at the land below, but soon a stunned look appeared on her face. Little Sparrow got up as well and waited for Ayira, but she remained in a trancelike state as she studied a faint view of a city skyline, just above the horizon. He worriedly watched her. When she noticed his confused expression, she felt embarrassed and quickly walked away. He sped over to his horse and patted its neck.
“You can ride with me.”
He gestured for her to mount, but she walked past, ignoring him. Little Sparrow got on the horse and rode alongside her as she walked back toward the village.
“Do you want to get on? It is a long walk to the village.” He patted the horse’s neck again. “Leave me alone.”
“I heard you say that before, what does that mean?”
She walked faster, but they did not reach the village until dusk. As soon as they arrived, Little Sparrow nervously rode away. Ayira watched him go and smiled.
Everyone was sitting around a bonfire eating and drinking. One of the men quickly ran up to the group, panting and excited.
“Black Bear is here.”
Chief Coyote stood up and smiled.
Soon afterward, Black Bear and three of his men arrived at the village. Chief Coyote met them, still smiling. Black Bear smiled back, and they hugged and patted each other’s shoulders.
“It is good to see you again, old friend,” said Chief Coyote.
With a serious expression, Black Bear replied, “Yes, it is good to see you too. We have much to talk about.”
Chief Coyote nodded.
Black Bear noticed the slaves. Concerned, he asked, “You have slaves?”
One of Black Bear’s men, Dogsun, stared at Imani curiously. She noticed and quickly turned away. “Yes, we have much to talk about... But come. We have food waiting for you,” said Chief Coyote.
“We must talk now – I came to warn you,” said Black Bear.
Surprised, Chief Coyote nodded. The men walked to the chief’s teepee; upon entering, they sat down and Black Bear turned to Chief Coyote with concern on his face. “We were attacked by another tribe, and they were helped by soldiers,” said Black Bear.
“Soldiers”?” asked White Hawk.
“Yes – we lost some of our men. The tribe had rifles. We had to retreat,” said Black Bear. “We saw the soldiers watching from the top of a ridge,” said Dogsun.
“We will be stronger if our tribes fight together,” said White Hawk.
Black Bear nodded and said, “That is why I’m here. We can defeat the tribe and the soldiers together.
That is the only way.”
“Why were soldiers there? And they just watched? What did they get from watching our people fighting? I do not understand?” said Chief Coyote.
“I do not understand either – but if the soldiers fight alongside that tribe, we will be outnumbered.” “We will help you however we can,” said Chief Coyote.
“Thank you – old friend,” said Black Bear.
“We will be ready when you need us,” said White Hawk. “You have slaves – how did you get them??” asked Black
“My father saved them from the white man,” said White Hawk. “Do you think they are looking for their slaves?”
“We made sure they could not find us – but if they do, we are ready,” said Chief Coyote. “You are willing to sacrifice your village for slaves??” asked Black Bear.
“That is what I said,” said White Hawk.
“Just as I told my son, we are all the same. We have the same enemy. Why not fight together as one?
Would we not be just as strong, or even stronger, if our people joined together with the slaves?”
“I understand, but I still think it is pointless. From what I have seen from the slaves, they are weak-minded. I have seen where there was one white man in charge of ten male slaves. Those slaves were big and strong, but they cowered away like mice to a snake,” said Black Bear.
“Because they are not of this land – does that make us better than them? We were slaves on our own land. We outnumbered the white men – but yet they were able to take most of our land from us, were we cowards as well?”
Black Bear thought quietly, and White Hawk looked down, saddened. “Talk with them and you will see for yourself.”
Dogsun stared at Black Bear anxiously, but Black Bear smiled and nodded. “Come – you must eat. There is food waiting for you,” said Chief Coyote.
The men returned to the bonfire and joined everyone else. One of Black Bear’s men stared at Red Sun, but she avoided his gaze. Imani sat with Tapiwa and Zuberi. As she drank, she noticed Dogsun staring at her again. He smiled at her and she smiled back bashfully. From a distance, Ayira watched the people dancing around the fire, enjoying themselves. She sat on the ground with tears in her eyes, hugging her legs and resting her chin on her knees. Suddenly, the natives disappeared and she saw Africans with masks dancing around the fire. She raised her head and stared in awe, and then wiped the tears from her eyes and smiled.
The African dancers soon disappeared and the natives reappeared. She started sobbing in great disappointment. Yellow Feather, sitting next to Red Sun, noticed Ayira in the distance as she sadly got up and walked toward her teepee.
As he watched Ayira, Red Sun put her head in the way and smiled at him. He smiled back, and then quickly turned to stare at the fire, thinking to himself.
Later that evening, Chief Coyote called a powwow in his teepee. When all of the slaves except Ayira had entered the teepee, Chief Coyote asked them to sit down. Imani looked around and noticed Dogsun staring at her again.
Zuberi leaned over and whispered to Imani, “Why do you think we are here?” “I do not know.”
“Why is he looking at you like that?” “Like what?”
Zuberi stared at her doubtfully, and then looked away.
Chief Coyote smiled at the group and said, “We want you to meet Black Bear and his men. They are from our sister tribe.”
Imani nodded and Black Bear looked surprised. “She understands you?”
“Yes – the women helped her learn,” said Great Eagle.
Chief Coyote pointed toward her and said, “She is Imani. We have found that she speaks many languages in her land. She learned our language fast.”
Black Bear thought to himself while Dogsun smiled proudly at Imani. “And this is Zuberi. He is from a tribe that lived in the forests.”
Yellow Feather looked curious as Chief Coyote continued, pointing at Tapiwa, “He is called Tapiwa and he is from a different tribe as well. His tribe had traded with many tribes.”
“You have accepted them as a part of your people??” asked Black Bear. “Yes – they have been a great help and they are good people.”
“What about the other slave woman? You did not speak of Ayira?” said Yellow Feather. Imani looked surprised.
“What about Ayira??” asked Chief Coyote.
“What kind of tribe is Ayira from??” asked Yellow Feather.
“She – she is from a tribe that lived in the desert. They keep to themselves,” said Imani. White Hawk smirked and said, “That is why she is the way she is.”
Imani continued, “Ayira’s father was like Great Eagle. He was a witchdoctor, a medicine man.” White Hawk laughed loudly, but Great Eagle appeared annoyed as he said, “Please continue.” “Her sister was the wife of a chief.”
White Hawk stopped smiling.
“She is the middle child of five children.”
“How much must we know about that slave woman, can we go on?” asked White Hawk. Yellow Feather stared at White Hawk in disgust.
Black Bear anxiously asked Imani, “Would you and your friends like to come with us, to stay? We welcome you to come with us. If the white men were to come looking for you, you would be with us.”
Chief Coyote seemed to be surprised, but Great Eagle looked disappointed. Imani was simply stunned, and she stared at Zuberi and Tapiwa.
“What is wrong?” asked Tapiwa.
Imani told Zuberi and Tapiwa. Both of them appeared excited as they nodded yes. “They accept, and we will all go with you to live with your tribe. Thank you.” “What about Ayira? Do you think she will go too?” asked Yellow Feather.
“I will ask her – but I believe she will,” said Imani.
Yellow Feather looked disappointed and White Hawk stared at him in disgust. Later that evening, Ayira was eating fish when Imani entered with Zuberi and Tapiwa. The young woman hurriedly put down her food and stared at them with a serious expression on her face.
“There were visitors – visitors from another tribe. They have asked us if we wanted to leave with them,” said Imani
Stunned, Ayira thought quietly without replying. “We all should go and stay together,” said Zuberi. “You all forget where you come from,” said Ayira. “We do not have time for this,” said Zuberi.
“And why do you come to me?” asked Ayira.
“Because we are here together and we leave together,” said Imani. Disgusted, Ayira said, “I go nowhere.”
“What – why?” asked Imani.
“I go nowhere. I am not keeping you here – I will stay here.” “You are a fool – die alone,” said Zuberi.
Ayira smirked and said, “Yes.” “Let us go,” said Zuberi.
“Why do you not want to go? You do not like this tribe – maybe you will like the other tribe?” asked Imani
“I want my tribe... You have forgotten about your tribes, but I have not forgotten about mine.”
“This is not about our tribes. This is about us. We must move on to survive. You cannot stay like this forever,” said Imani.
“Leave her here. We will go with the other tribe and start over – forget about her,” said Zuberi. “We will leave with the other tribe,” said Imani.
“You will run for the rest of your life,” said Ayira. “Why are we going? Ayira is right,” said Tapiwa.
“Ayira is a fool. Do not listen to her. She knows nothing,” said Zuberi.
“Why do you run? Are you not a great warrior? A great warrior never runs,” said Ayira, and Zuberi‘s eyes widened.
Ayira continued, “A great warrior in a foreign land is nothing at all.” “A great warrior is a great warrior wherever he is,” said Zuberi.
“We will leave tomorrow,” said Imani.
“I want to know nothing about what is to come,” said Ayira. “Let us go,” said Zuberi.
Imani nodded and the men left. She stood up with a disappointed frown. “Why do you torture yourself?” asked Imani.
“You hide yourself in here and you talk to no one.” “That is not torture – I am loyal to my people.”
Tears fell from Imani’s eyes as she said, “Do you think I have no loyalty? We all want to go back, Ayira – but we know it is not going to happen... These people helped us.”
Ayira looked away as Imani continued, “These people helped us, they are our friends. You were dying and they saved you.”
“They should have let me die.”
“How can you say that? Do you know how many slaves would give anything to be here where you are?”
Ayira’s face was serious as Imani continued, “As you were sick, we stood in front of the white people and they looked at us as if we were animals. They checked every part of our bodies.”
Imani started crying and said, “The white people bought us and beat us.” Ayira looked away, saddened.
“I do not want to know what happens to our people when they are in the hands of their owners. The Indians try to tell me, but I do not want to know,” said Imani, as she shook her head.
Ayira got up and hesitantly stroked Imani’s arm to comfort her. “I cannot know,” said Imani.
Ayira started sobbing and said, “Why should we run? There is no reason to run – there is nowhere to run.”
“I am not running away, I just want to live.” Ayira pulled away from Imani.
“I want to keep my people alive, make my people proud,” said Imani.
“Of what? To become a slave? I would rather die... I have no reason to be here, and I have no reason to run.”
“I understand, and I will bother you no more,” said Imani. “Thank you.”
Ayira looked down as Imani left, and then sadly stared at the entrance.