IN HIS STILL limited Thana, he spoke to Wergenget of this. The chief didn’t look surprised. He smiled, and Kickaha saw in this a pleasure.
“You could have escaped us; you still could,” Wergenget said. “I saw the intent in your face briefly, though it closed almost immediately, like a fist.
“I’ll tell you, Kickaha, why you have lived so long among us. Usually, we kill an enemy at once. Or, if he or she seems to be a brave person, we honor him or her with torture. But sometimes, if the person is not of a tribe familiar to us, that is, not an old enemy, we adopt him or her. Death strikes often, and we don’t have enough children to replace the enemies. Our tribe has been getting smaller for some time now. Therefore, I will decree that you be adopted. You have shown courage, and all of us are grateful that you saved one of our precious children.”
Kickaha began to feel a little less lonely.
Several hours later, the storm ceased. The tribe ventured again into the valley and retrieved the body of Lukyo. She was carried into camp with much wailing by the women. The rest of the day was spent in mourning while her body, washed clean, her hair combed, lay on top of a pile of skins. At “dusk” she was carried on a litter borne on the shoulders of four men to a place a mile from the camp. Here her corpse was placed on the ground, and the shaman, Oshullain, danced around her, chanting, waving a three-lined stick in ritualistic gestures. Then, singing a sad song, the whole tribe, except for some mounted guards, walked back to the camp.
Kickaha looked back once. Vultures were gliding toward her, and a band of long-legged baboons was racing to beat them to the feast. About a quarter of a mile away a pride of the maneless lions was trotting toward the body. Doubtless, they’d try to drive the baboons away, and there would be a hell of a ruckus. When the simians were in great numbers, they would harass the big cats until they forced them to abandon the meat.
On getting back to camp, the shaman recited a short poem he’d composed. It was in honor of Lukyo, and it was designed to keep her memory fresh among the tribe. It would be on everybody’s lips for a while, then they’d cease singing it. And, after a while, she would be forgotten except in the memories of her child and parents. The child would forget, too, with the passage of time, and the parents would have other more pressing things to think about.
Only those who’d done some mighty deed still had songs sung about them. The others were forgotten.
The tribe stayed outside the lake country for another day. Wergenget explained that the storm season was almost always over by now. But it had been extended by the Lord, for some reason, and the tribe had made a fatal miscalculation.
“Or, perhaps,” the chief said, “we have somehow offended the Lord, and he kept the lightning from going back to the heavens for a day.”
Kickaha didn’t comment on this. He was usually discreet about getting into arguments about religion. There was also no sense in offending the chief when it might make him change his mind about adopting him.
Wergenget called in the whole tribe and made a speech. Kickaha understood about half of the words, but the tones and the gestures were easily interpreted. Though the Lord had taken away Lukyo with one hand, he had given them Kickaha with the other. The tribe had offended the Lord. Or perhaps it was only Lukyo who had done this. In any event, the Lord still did not hate them altogether. By slaying Lukyo, the Lord had vented his wrath. To show the tribe that it was still in his favor, he’d sent Kickaha, a warrior, to the tribe. So it was up to the tribe to take him in.
The only one who objected to this was the youth, Toini, who had kicked Kickaha when he was bending over the channel. He suggested that perhaps the Lord wanted the tribe to sacrifice Kickaha to him. This, plus Lukyo’s death, would satisfy the Lord.