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Two Trails - Title

Chapter 56

Storm’s astonishing victory, sudden and violent, was indisputable but the tribe was having trouble comprehending how the undefeated Menewa could have been defeated so quickly and easily. Angry shouts erupted that Storm had cheated or used magic.

Hania and his under-priests shouted that neither man had used any magic. Technically, it was true in spite of Adrammelech possessing Menewa but if they brought it up there was no telling what it might unleash.

Namida tribesmen were urging Gaagii and his under-shamans to back up their charges of magic being used, but they labored under a contradiction. If they claimed Storm used magic, the Minninnewah priests could bring up Adrammelech’s possession of Menewa. If they all stood together to claim magic had been unlawfully used and resist any mention of Adrammelech’s presence, they might have a chance to invalidate Storm’s claim but if so much as one of them broke ranks, the lie would be exposed. From the distrustful looks they were giving each other, Lorelei could tell they wouldn’t be able to maintain a united front for very long. She leaned over to Storm. “Get just one of them to admit there wasn’t any magic and it’s over.”

He nodded. “I see it. You know them better than I do. Which one do you think is most likely to break?”

Lorelei considered it.

For all his blustering and rank, Gaagii was essentially a coward who’d been promoted too high for his own good. He was also a creature of the herd. Whatever the bulk of them decided, he’d go along with it. He’d backed Hania in the Council Lodge of the Elders because they were the only two shamans or priests but out here, with all his other shamans gathered around him? No, he wasn’t brave enough to take a stand until someone else did. There was a standing joke around the tribe that Gaagii led from behind.

What about Matchitehew? He was Menewa’s cousin but with none of Menewa’s strength. He might be pliable if she could get his brother, Keme, to approach him. Keme’s name meant secret thunder and it certainly described him. At a summer festival eight years ago, he’d secretly begun studying magic from an itinerant wizard who came there to peddle his healing potions. Lorelei had discovered it by accident and never revealed it to anyone. Maybe she could hold that over him. She looked around, trying to spot him in the surging crowd.


She waved at him. “Keme! Come here!”

He reluctantly pushed his way clear and came to her. “What?”

She turned to Storm. “Keme began secretly studying magic several years ago. He might have that Sight, you and Ralt talk about. He could have seen if you were using magic, and convince his brother over there to come clean.” She pointed at Matchitehew.

Keme started guiltily when she revealed his secret but Storm smiled to put him at ease. “Hey, it wasn’t easy for me to learn that I could do magic. I won’t tell anyone . . . but, if you had your Sight turned on and could convince your brother, it would really help.”

Keme sighed. “I did and I saw no magic but I saw. . . well, I saw.” He shuddered.

Storm nodded. “Yeah, I saw him too.”

Keme shuddered again. He was tall and slender with gray eyes. He glanced at his brother and sighed deeply. “I’ll talk to Mat, he knows about me.” He walked away. Grabbing Matchitehew by the arm, he pulled him aside and began whispering in his ear.

Some of his fellow shamans turned to watch.

Some in the crowd were watching too while the rest continued arguing.

Matchitehew glanced up at Storm then turned back to listen to his brother. Finally, he grimaced and nodded. He walked back to the other shamans and they went into a huddle. After several minutes of intense debate, Gaagii led his shamans out to join Hania and his priests.

The crowd settled down, leaning forward expectantly.

Gaagii raised his staff. “No magic was used.”

Another hubbub broke out, this time more subdued. There were still some angry looks thrown at Storm but most seemed resigned to the turn of events. He leaned over to Lorelei. “That’s one for us. Now, watch this.”

Alarmed, she tried to catch his arm to stop him but it was too late. “Menewa claimed all that was Klah’s and I claim all that was his, so I have all that belonged to both.” She sagged with relief that he hadn’t tried to claim the chieftain’s position. By right he could have, and still could, but as long as he didn’t come out and say it, there was hope they could avoid another confrontation.

Her headstrong husband wasn’t done though.

“By his own admission, Klah murdered Crowsotarri, so Lorelei’s banishment was based on a lie. That lie is overthrown and her banishment rescinded.”

Her heart pounded in her chest.


Storm put his arm around her and his foot on Menewa’s body to emphasize his point. It was brazen, outlandish posturing but it was the sort of thing the Abeytu were accustomed to from strong men. Once again she found herself reflecting that while he might not be a barbarian from birth, he had the same innate mindset all men shared by nature and could only be trained out of by civilization.

The Minninnewah acquiesced to his demand. Some were slower than others to bend but bend they did. One by one they came by and put a hand on her shoulder, then walked away. Tears started in her eyes as her people accepted her back into the tribe. She was filled with love and admiration for the incredible man she’d bound herself to, who would do so much for her.

The Namida weren’t so easy to convince. A few joined the procession but most refused, turning their backs on her and walking away.

Storm maintained his position until the last one had walked by to touch her shoulder before he took his foot off Menewa. He turned and took her in his arms, kissing her tears away. “Welcome home, Lorelei, welcome home.”

* * * * *

After her tears finally stopped, Storm turned into a hyperactive whirlwind of motion. By sheer force of personality he browbeat the Council of Elders into searching Klah’s tents and belongs until they found Crowsotarri’s remains. They also found more of Lorelei’s arrows from the ill-fated archery contest, thus establishing Klah’s guilt beyond any doubt.

At the same time, he urged the priests and shamans from the two different faiths to use their collective power to determine what power Menewa’s cast off armbands possessed. Gaagii refused to let his shamans be part of it but Hania’s priests quickly determined the nature of their magic; part of it was protective, to defend the wearer from harm. The other part though, was evil to the core. It opened the wearer to being possessed by the spirit of the god whose priests had created it.

The oldest of the Elders, Wahkan, reacted to the news with surprise. “Gaagii gave those to Menewa when he came to manhood. He’s worn them ever since.” Others among the elders nodded agreement, they’d been there to see it too. Even the Namida among the elders had to face the truth of what Gaagii had done. Lorelei, who had known them all her life, could see in their faces the dawning realization of where Menewa’s unbroken string of victories must have come from.

Next, Storm led them to search Menewa’s tents and belongings but there they turned up nothing unusual except a complete absence of any archery equipment, which was understandable after his humiliation at the festival.

Between Menewa and Klah, Storm gained 14 horses, nine tents, numerous knives, bows, spears, tomahawks, buffalo hides, leather clothes, blankets, fishing nets, lines, hooks, and cooking utensils. The combined stack of buffalo hides was nearly as tall as Lorelei and the pile of blankets and clothing was even higher. There were also dozens of lined baskets full of smoked fish and meat, as well as dried vegetables of all kinds. Menewa’s tent even yielded a chest of iron and bronze ingots. There was no gold or silver of course, but in Biqah terms, Storm and Lorelei were now fabulously wealthy.

Storm found it strange that neither man had been married or had any offspring.

By the time they were finished sorting it out and counting everything, the sun was dropping to the horizon. Storm combined several of Klah’s tents and Menewa’s, and with the help of several men, including Keme, erected a giant tent for himself and Lorelei. He invited all the shamans and priests, the elders, and all the men who helped put up the tent to a feast. He also invited their wives and children. In spite of the huge size of the tent, it was still packed tight. He fed them from the food he inherited from Klah and Menewa, then passed out gifts of blankets and hides as they were leaving.

Lorelei smiled as she watched him. These were the actions of a conqueror, spreading the plunder to his faithful warriors. None of them met that description of course, but they understood his actions as well as she did. The implications were obvious, he intended to put forward his claim to lead the tribe.

After the dinner was over and the tent was cleaned, she tied the flaps closed and was finally alone with him.

They had built a huge bed of hides and blankets. He was laying back as his ease watching her as she tidied up and closed the tent. She sauntered toward him, rolling her hips as she untied her clothes and let them drop to the floor.

“Tomorrow there will be more fighting if you truly intend to claim leadership.”

He nodded. “You know I do.” His eyes were glued to hers.

She smiled in agreement. “That is for tomorrow. Today,” she paused as the last of her clothing fell away, “today, you have done justice for my father, rid the world of a great evil, and restored me to my tribe.” She knelt at his feet and began removing his boots. “Tonight, your every wish is my command.”

He held out a hand. “You are the wife of my heart and soul. Come to me.”

Lorelei smiled.

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