Aiyana tested the point of one spear from the pile beside her, scrutinizing it for remnants of the day's hunt. Wiping with a soft deer skin, she cleaned it to spotlessness, and started on another.
Around her, the Yakima village was dying down. The returned hunters were ready to retire; an occasional person tallied with their chores for the day. Aiyana had a lengthy night ahead, for she had lazed around a decent part of her day, carelessly roaming the woods. Now she would be required to stay up late to finish her jobs.
Aiyana was a layperson in her village; her place was predetermined from birth. She would spend her life away serving her people until she was no longer able. Then she would die. It was the natural life cycle.
There were others, of course. There was the chief and his family, the hunters and the guards, the elders, and the scribes. There was a selection of servants. Every one played a role in her tribe, yet some just had it easier than others.
Aiyana stayed until it was desolate and dark before rising from her crouch and briskly stripping off her soiled apron. Before she headed to bed, she soaked it in the nearby stream and wrung it out to lay on a rock. As it dried, she marveled at the glistening stars, mesmerized by the intricate patterns and designs. She loved it.
Aiyana adored nature. She loved to explore through the forest and just observe the critters and plants. Whereas she felt alone and slight in her tribe, in the woods she was at home, like she could do or be anything she wanted. She cherished the feeling, despite the disapproval radiating from her village.
They thought she was rash to leave, for the neighboring Cayuse considered stray Yakimas fair game. If one was foolish enough to fall beneath their grasp, they deserved their fate. Aiyana was cunning, vigilant in covering her tracks and in keeping watch. It was a trait she had supposedly inherited from her tribe.
Each tribe had one unique talent no others shared - some were intelligent, like the Yakimas, while others had a flair for communicating with animals. The tribes were vigilant in keeping their talent secret, for it represented use as a weakness against them. Aiyana thought of the Cayuses, and wondered idly at their talent. They were by far the most guarded; anyone alleged of knowing would disappear, only to be found days later at the base of a summit with a broken neck. The old "must-have-fell" reason was going dry, however, as more and more people turned up dead.
With a furrow between her brows and a shiver running down her spine, Aiyana gracefully rose from her lazy sprawl. She shook back her raven black hair and smoothed her dress and headed towards the servant tent. The last person awake, the village was eerily empty except for the occasional guard. Aiyana shivered in the winter cold and picked up her speed, comforted by the subtle crunch of her moccasins on the gravel.
She was nearly home when she was slammed to the ground, scraping her entire left side on wire fence. Her bones jarred from the impact; her teeth gritted in pain. She clumsily righted herself and faced her attacker, one of the guards. He was a burly man, holding a spear a few threatening inches from her face. Aiyana cowered under his intense glare and closed her eyes in panic. A few seconds from now she could very well be dead.
Feeling nothing, she gingerly peeked. The man had moved some few feet back and was watching her coolly. "Get to your tent, servant. There have been too many attacks for your foolish wandering." He had a gravely voice and an impatient attitude, for he was trotting back to his post before he even finished speaking. Aiyana stared after him in astonishment, only slightly hurt from his harsh words. Her side, on the other hand...
Scraped raw, blood trickled from numerous slits and burns marking her skin from the edges of her knees to the curves of her hips. The icy slap of the wind only intensified the dreary sting beginning to settle on her.
She shook herself from her tremors, and, coming upon an empty bucket, began a return trip to the river. Gritting her teeth, she hastily filled it and vigorously wiped at her wounds with the icy water. It seemed only minutes later she dazedly climbed under her worn blanket, made of deer and bear hides. She luxuriated in the meager warmth and safety it brought. Around her a heaping pile of bodies snored and rustled, already in the deep throes of sleep. Exhausted, she was fast asleep only seconds later, her pain and terror miles away.
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