• Dzama

War Pipe

The fleet floated soundlessly down the river, the canoes cutting through the black night water. The sliver of moon floated reflected on the surface, not providing much light, and the braves took comfort in the darkness. They were armed to the teeth, and their dark silhouettes revealed pointy arrows and the blades of spears and hatchets. The time of the peace pipe was over and Chief Mantis lit up a war pipe of rare herbs that was meant to agitate and bring forth a desire for bloodletting and vengeance.

Mantis sat on the largest boat sharpening one point after another, then sharpened his axes and knives. He had the war pipe now and he was holding onto it, taking drag after drag. When Raven asked for a hit, Mantis growled at him like a wild animal. Raven retreated into the group of warriors at the rear of the boat. The men whispered to each other as Mantis took another deep drag. He watched them out of the corner of his eye and was suddenly suspicious of their whispering. It seemed they all plotted something. He went on sharpening and looked up the dark river, night birds making strange noises. He couldn’t focus on the enemy ahead when there was whispering about him in his own boat.

He notched two arrows into the string of his bow and drew it back, aiming up the river. But then he spun around and let the two arrows fly at his own men. He reloaded his bow instantly and let two more fly. Four of his men fell back, arrows in their hearts, and one toppled overboard. None of the braves cried out, not wanting to alert the enemy of their presence, but still a volley of arrows rained down on Chief Mantis and he deflected them the best he could. One stuck in his arm and one in his thigh. He gritted his teeth and didn’t cry out, simply stringing two more arrows into his bow and letting them fly.

One of the warriors gave the birdcall meaning “mutiny” and the tribesmen on the other boats heard it. Soon arrows flew at the chief from all directions and a hatchet caught him in between the shoulder blades. He stood and lumbered forward, looking like a walking pincushion with all the arrows he’d been skewered with.

He took another hit from the war pipe and lunged at his attackers, dagger in each hand. He got one of them halfway scalped when there was another barrage of arrows and his own head was split open, blood shooting up like a geyser. This did not stop him, however, and, after another drag from the war pipe, he leapt from his boat to the next, spinning like a dervish, blades cutting into more of the tribesmen’s flesh. He no longer looked human with arrows sticking out of him at every angle. He was like a pinned voodoo doll with blood spraying out of it.

The other tribesmen had become terrified of the unstoppable force their chief had become and the ones who still lived dove in the water to swim away. Mantis swam after them, some arrows snapping off him in the water. He killed them one by one, half of his head having fallen clean off.

When the enemy finally arrived, the canoes were weighed down by bleeding corpses and still more dead bodies floated in the water. They didn’t see Chief Mantis though, who floated quietly in the water, arrows sticking out of his body every which way. When they finally did see him, it was too late.

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