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Authors: C. R. Daems

Zara the Wolf

BOOK: Zara the Wolf
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C. R. Daems



the Wolf

© 2015 by C. R. Daems


part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means,
graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping,
or by any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in
writing from C. R. Daems.


book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are
products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance
to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely





Check out all my novels at:




The Ojaza


The Testing


The Raid


Learning to be civilized


A New Beginning


CALLE: Duke Wetzel


The Cheyo Monk


The decision


SALMAN: Earl Pelote


AYUS: Earl Varesko


CASTRA: Duke Dewan


JQEDIT: Earl Arriaga


BUDIA: Earl Purvis


HIPULA: Duke Brodka


TRASSLAT: Abbot of Trasslat


ULIA: Earl Gallegos


KARISO: Duke Phipps


Expedition to Arucci


Monis Pass


The Iappo


The Return to Calle


of Aesona


The Ojaza

I stood pressed
against my mother, her arms tight around me as two men in padded grey clothes
hacked at my father with swords. He had managed to hurt one with the
long-handled scythe he used to harvest grain, but the man's padded clothing
prevented the scythe from cutting him open. It had merely knocked him stumbling
backward, screaming in rage. Immediately, another man joined the fight. Neither
could manage a killing blow because the scythe kept them from approaching too
close, but they had managed to score shallow cuts to his arms, sides, and legs.
My father's shirt and pants were soaked in blood and hanging open where the
swords had sliced through the thin material. I wanted to run and help him, but
I couldn’t break loose from my mother's arms around me. I could see my father
was tiring and the scythe slowing as it swept from one warrior toward the
other. Then one of the men's swords struck my father's scythe and stopped it
from reversing, and the other man darted in and his sword sliced through his
neck. I screamed as blood sprayed across my mother and me. Tasting his blood on
my lips, rage filled me, and I fought with all my strength to break loose from
my mother so I could run to him. The fighting appeared to have stopped and men
were dragging bodies ... women into the houses. As two men approached us, my
mother stumbled backward until the wall of our house stopped her. The men
grabbed her arms to try and release me, but her grip tightened. A third man
grabbed her by the hair and punched her until she collapsed. A woman, dressed
like the men, grabbed hold of me as the men dragged her into the house.

"Do what we say
and you live," she said in a harsh rasping tone as she placed a leather
collar around my neck, attached to a long rope. "Come," she said and
began walking. Hearing my mother screaming, I ignored her and began running toward
the house. Suddenly my head snapped back and my feet flew out from beneath me,
and I hit the ground on my back. Spots danced before my eyes, and I gasped,
desperately trying to suck in air.

"You belong to
Ojaza. Do what told or—" She yanked on the rope and pain shot
through my neck, and I couldn't breathe. I tried to loosen the collar with my
fingers but couldn’t. The woman laughed and yanked hard enough to pull me to my
feet. Then she did something to the collar, and I could breathe again. "Be
good. Hurt less." She laughed and walked toward a snow-white horse. As the
rope began to tighten, I staggered forward, my mind numb.

The next days and
nights were lost in pain. I was roped together with six other children, only
two from our village, and made to follow the woman's horse. The ground was
rocky, and my feet were soon sore and bleeding. As we rose into the mountains
the nights were freezing, and we huddled together to keep warm. The woman abandoned
three children on our way to her village: one because her foot turned black and
she couldn't walk; one who fell on a narrow trail and broke her arm; and one
who didn't wake in the morning.

* * *

We entered a large village one grey
cloudy day just as it began to snow. It was a good thing because I doubt any of
us could have been made to go any farther, no matter what she did. Everyone had
stopped responding to her shouting or beating—only to the pull of the
rope connected to the collar. High in the mountains, the village was spread
over two large wooded terraces under the bare face of a massive snow-covered
peak. Round huts were everywhere. The three of us were led to one of the huts and
given blankets, rough pants, and over-shirts. She stayed while we discarded the
rags we were wearing. When she left, I grabbed a blanket, found a vacant
corner, and collapsed into sleep.

I jerked awake to
cries of pain and seconds later received a kick to my leg. Dazed and my mind
numb, I staggered to my feet, unable to come to grips with what was happening.
The same woman stood there shouting and pushing each of us out the open door.

"Out. Work or no
food!" She led six of us into the freezing cold of the morning. It had
snowed during the night and a thin layer of snow covered the ground. "You
watch, learn." She pointed to the three of us. The other three waved to us
and headed for the forest. I followed and helped them collect wood, prepare
several fire pits, and fetch water from a small river nourished by runoff from
the mountain that flowed along the edge of the village. After we had finished
and the people had eaten, we were allowed to eat from what remained. While we
were eating, the woman appeared.

"You." She
pointed to me. It took a minute for me to realize she wanted a name.

"Zara," I
said. I had always liked that name and wished my father had named me that
rather than Chiba. My old life was over so a new name seemed right, and it was
probably going to be the only thing I ever liked again, so why not.

"Follow Ema. Learn,
or bad happen to you." She paired the other two with a similar threat. Ema's
chores mostly involved keeping the area clean and helping to prepare the food
the hunters brought in daily—they grew no food. Their diet was a simple
mixture of meat, roots, and natural berries, herbs, and nuts that grew in the
nearby forests. She and I were always busy. If we ran out of something to do,
someone would grab us to fetch or carry or whatever they wished. We were the
camp slaves, there to make their lives easier. Each night I dropped into bed
too exhausted to even talk to the others. As I learned the various tasks asked
of us, Ema began to treat me like her personal slave and took pleasure in
hitting me when I wasn't fast enough—or just because she could. I had
become dead inside and didn't care. They couldn't send me to the fiery
afterlife of the damned—I lived there already. So one day when Ema began
hitting me, I picked up a tree limb from the fire and whacked her in the head.
She spun halfway around and collapsed. As I stood there waiting for whatever
they were going to do to me and not caring, the woman who brought us walk up
and stared down at Ema and then at me.

"You do her
chore now," she said, and then said something in their language to a man
sitting nearby. He put away the sword he was fixing, picked up Ema, and carried
her off.

* *

The seasons came and
went, each day the same—work from dawn until no one wanted you to do anything,
which was usually late into the night. Three summers had come and gone. I had
learned their language and knew I could speak it well, but kept my few
responses cryptic like I had only learned a few words. It proved an advantage,
because they felt free to talk when I was near. I slowly learned their customs,
religion, likes, dislikes, fears, and joys. They had a spy in their
camp—I giggled to myself, the first pleasure I had felt since I arrived.
And thus started in earnest what I had been doing by accident. I would move my
task close enough to hear or see what was being said or done. Somehow that gave
my life meaning, and my numbed mind came back to life.

The tribe took little
notice of their slaves unless they wanted one of them to do something. I discovered
there were two other tribes in the mountains. They weren't at war with each
other, but they did raid one another occasionally, stealing food, or weapons,
or slaves. Usually, it involved the young would-be warriors testing themselves.
The Ojaza prayed and made periodic sacrifices to a variety of unseen spirits
they pictured with symbols in their limited written language. Warrior was the
highest rank, with medicine man next, then those with special skills like
weapon making, then everyone else. Slaves were ranked with the camp dogs. Only
warriors could take a mate, and slaves were available as mates when they
reached a certain age or maturity. Within the warrior-class, tattoos designated
their seniority and authority. With my new purpose in life, I made sure I
attempted to do every task to the best of my ability. Because I was no trouble,
it made me less noticed.

My latest quest was
watching the young warriors being taught to fight. I would sit facing them with
whatever task I had been given so that I could watch without it being obvious. Then
at night, I would lay awake going over and over the movements I had watched. But
I got careless. I had picked up a small twig and was secretly, I thought,
mimicking one of the sword moves the warrior was teaching several youths.
Before I realized it, the warrior stood in front of me.

"A slave who
would be a warrior," he said in the tribe's language. They had stopped
speaking standard to me a couple of summers ago. "Come with me." He
motioned for me to stand up, and I followed him back to the group of six young
men, who were smiling. The warrior gave me one of the wooden swords and paired
me with each of the boys. When the last match finished, I had to be helped back
to my hut. I lay there bruised from my thighs to my shoulders, but felt nothing
as I retreated into myself, going over each match until I could remember every
stroke my opponent and I made. I woke, my mind screaming in pain as skin,
muscle, and bone registered the abuse my body had sustained the previous day. I
lay there sweating, trembling, and throwing up. It took me several attempts to
get up onto my knees and then my feet. I staggered around the fringe of the
camp collecting the weeds the warriors used for pain and then began my chores. Somehow
I managed to get through the day. For the next five days, it was obvious I was
in considerable pain and the source of everyone's amusement. The slave had been
taught her place, and in their minds, that was the end of it.

* * *

Much to the amusement
of the warrior teaching the youths, I looked down each time he looked in my
direction. However, I still watched and each night went over the new moves they
were learning. When I finally felt recovered, I intentionally picked up a small
stick and mimicked the students' new exercise. The warrior smiled and came
walking over.

"The slave too
dumb to learn. Time for another lesson. Up!" He turned, and I followed him
back to the group where he again paired me in a match with each youth. Again, I
could barely make it back to my hut. The other slaves long ago considered me
crazy and ignored me. I lay awake mentally excited as I reviewed each match. I
had improved. Their reflexes were better because they practiced each day and
had learned new moves, but I had deflected many blows that had landed the
previous time.

This ritual continued
through the summer and early winter: the warrior would call me over and pair me
with each youth; I would go away bruised and in pain; I would recover in a week
or two; and then it would start over again. I had learned during my years as a
slave that if I didn’t care about living or dying, pain or comfort, my mind
became quiet, and it eased the pain. Furthermore, reviewing the training I
watched and my matches with that same quiet mind, I learned better than the youths
practicing each day. And if I quieted my mind during a fight, I could beat the
youths most of the time but intentionally let them win. Winning would have
infuriated the warrior and the youths, and the consequences would have been
bad. Now, everyone enjoyed the slave being taught a lesson.

Then one day, the
routine changed. The warrior came over after the youths had finished and told
me to follow him back to the area. There, an older youth stood waiting.

"If you can stop warrior Nibi from crippling you, I
will consider training you to be a warrior. I am not stupid, Zara. You are
better than you pretend, and dangerous. So we must make you a warrior or a
crippled slave," he said. I nodded. I had nothing to lose. A healthy slave
was no different from a crippled slave. I fought to quiet my mind and to dampen
the excitement I felt as I took the wooden sword from the warrior. I knew my
biggest fight was now. If I couldn't quiet my mind, I would lose. That would be
the only thing I could do to offset Nibi's experience. He wasn't a youth just
learning how to use a sword. When I finally turned to face him, he smiled. My
eyes sought his chest and my thoughts of winning or losing or life and death
ceased to be important. I had nothing to lose.

I saw his weight shift onto his left leg, and his sword
twist preparing to lunge forward with his sword into my stomach. Having
anticipated the move, my sword met his, driving it out to my left. I
immediately countered with a down stroke to his neck. The fight went on for
several minutes. We each scored several times; however, he was wearing padding
and I wasn't. So far I had been fortunate that his hits had been glancing blows
and in my current state the pain was under control.

"Stop!" the warrior stopped a late strike to my
head from Nibi. "As I suspected, you will not make a good slave. You have
warrior blood. We would have to kill you eventually. We will see if we can make
an Ojaza of you." He waved for me to follow him and led me to a large dome
hut. Outside, an older woman was
drilling several young women with swords.

"Ehwee, this is Zara. She needs training."

"A slave?"

"She is no good as a slave, so she must be a warrior or

"Leave her. She may be good for the young ones to
compete against or to amuse them. We will see." Ehwee was right. I was
treated like a rabid fox. No one talked to me, and it was obvious from the
whispered talk they planned to have fun with me. I didn't care. I had nothing
to lose, and I was no longer a slave.

* * *

The hardest part of the training was the physical
activities. The tribes' women had been active from youth and born in the
mountains where the air was thin. They could run for hours, whereas I was panting
after only a few minutes. I always finished last—my lungs screaming in
pain and too tired to swing the wooden sword. Ehwee took great pleasure in
having matches right after we finished running. The young took pleasure in
delivering vicious strikes everywhere they could. I endured, although some
mornings I could barely stagger to the training area. Young bodies are
resilient, and slowly my stamina improved. I found if I quieted my mind while
running, I could control the pain. And my sword technique improved as I
continued to sit each night with a quiet mind, reviewing every match and every
stroke. Although still tired at the end of a long run, with my improving
stamina the youths were no match for me with a sword. I gave as good as I got.
I could have given better as time passed, but knew that would cause more
trouble, maybe even my death. But I didn't fool Ehwee. Three summers later she
had me moved to an older group that included men. I couldn't match their
physical stamina, but I managed to finish, even if always last.

BOOK: Zara the Wolf
3.19Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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