The chief stood there in the doorway, surrounded by the dim light of torches held by the men behind him. He had an expression on his face that Isaac couldn’t read. He didn’t look angry, but he certainly didn’t look calm. It was as if time stood still...Isaac staring at the chief and the restless men behind him, and they all staring back at him.
What are they waiting for? Why does the chief look at me like he hasn’t seen me before? Isaac squirmed on the bed, trying to put on a brave face. What will they do to me? Don’t they understand it was an accident?
Slowly, Isaac stood up, squeezing his palms together so no one would see his trembling hands. His knees felt weak and he swallowed hard to get rid of the nauseating feeling in the pit of his stomach. He was determined to face these men like a man.
The chief took a step forward, his forehead wrinkling. Isaac wondered if he was impressed by his bravery in standing up to him. Stroking his chin, the chief looked like he was about to speak.
Isaac relaxed a bit, releasing his tightly folded hands. Maybe the chief would pardon him and let him go.
The moment of hope was short-lived. Behind the chief, the furious village men surged in, knocking their leader to the side as if he hadn’t even been there. Isaac squeezed his eyes shut for a second, only to open them and see Akando standing before him. A powerful hand gripped his tomahawk and his black eyes seemed to burn holes into the terrified boy.
Putting his hands up as if to protect himself, Isaac forgot all notions of trying to act like a man, only dreading what Akando would do to him. This madman has had it in for me from the day we were captured. Now that he has a good excuse, he’d probably kill me without objection from anyone. I burned down homes…wrecked these people’s peaceful lives...
Akando only laughed as he saw Isaac’s worthless mode of defense. Gripping the boy’s shoulders, he drug him across the floor of the wigwam, the village men closing in tightly as if to prevent an escape.
What are they going to do with me? Isaac begin to panic, his breath hard to catch. The chief wouldn’t just let them kill me...or would he? Ever since coming to the village the chief had treated him with indifference. Acknowledging Isaac with a scowl was hardly the same thing as saying hello.
He’s probably still angry at me for stealing Kesegowasse’s horse all those weeks ago.
Isaac cried out as Akando and the others forced him out of the wigwam and down the path into the night-time darkness. All of them kept yelling in their native language and Isaac was pretty sure none of what they said was good.
Hanging limply from Akando’s hold, Isaac closed his eyes as he saw where they were taking him. It was a large, overgrown clearing where the tribal dances and meetings were held.
While his leg had been healing, Isaac had seen a bit of the village when Chenoa allowed him to go outside. The moment he had first laid eyes on this certain place, it had sent chills running up his spine. It was dark, overgrown, and a number of thick trees had animals carved into them. Bits of colorful cloth and feathers draped over lower branches, and a few logs served as benches.
Not here! Isaac wanted to scream. He didn’t know what it was about this place, but it terrified him. When lying inside the wigwam, with his leg sending spikes of pain through his body, he had heard the tribal chants and drums that beat at the tribe’s various meetings and dances. It had all been eerie and frightening. Now the night-time darkness made it worse, and the torches cast frightening shadows all over the meeting ground.
Isaac glanced behind him and saw the crowd was following them into the meeting place. Because of the dark, he couldn’t make out many faces, but from the light of one torch, he saw one man, a hand tightly clutching the handle of his tomahawk and his free arm around a young woman with a baby.
Did I burn down that couple’s home? Isaac hated the thought of what he had accidentally done. These people had taken him from his home, but he had destroyed theirs. Tears welled up in his eyes but he quickly blinked them away. No matter what happened, these people would never see he was afraid of them.
Without a word, Akando shoved Isaac up against a tree, wrapped a thick leather strap around his chest, and tied his hands behind the tree. There would be no escaping.
“He has destroyed many homes! Boy cause much trouble!” Isaac winced as Akando shoved an accusing finger into his ribcage.
I hardly destroyed many homes...five! I only destroyed five! What other trouble have I caused? Isaac knew it would be pointless to argue. This man who hated him would do what he wanted.
“Boy must pay!” Touching the handle of his tomahawk, Akando stared intently at Isaac, his lip curling. “He must die!”
The crowd that had seemed restrained a minute ago suddenly pressed forward, their shouts filling the night air.
No!! Oh, please no! Isaac glanced around wildly for Chenoa, for Joseph, the chief, even for Kesegowasse. He knew deep down it would be impossible to see them in the dark, but wouldn’t any of them step forward to help him? Didn’t Chenoa, who had seemed so kind and gentle, care that he was about to be torn apart by an angry mob?
And where was Joseph? Had he pulled Isaac from the flames earlier only to let him perish now? I wouldn’t blame Joseph if he is hiding someplace. He might have saved me from the fire but he could never save me from Akando and this angry group of villagers. Guilt tore through Isaac and he lowered his head, trying to push thoughts of Joseph aside.
Akando forced Isaac’s head up, his big hand squeezing his chin so hard it burned. What was he waiting for? Did he enjoy seeing Isaac so helpless or did he want to see him beg for mercy?
Isaac tensed, meeting Akando’s gaze. He would not let this man see he was afraid. He’d show him he had courage.
Akando only seemed to think Isaac’s manly stare was something to laugh at as he gripped the handle of his tomahawk.
Suddenly, bright torches and dark figures hurrying towards them from the farthest side of the village caught Isaac’s attention. He turned his face away from Akando, squinting in the darkness to try and make out the faces of the figures.
By accident, a cry escaped Isaac’s lips as he could make out Kesegowasse breaking away from the group of men and charging through the village.
A late hunting party! Kesegowasse must not have realized what was happening. All the others got back late this afternoon but he and his men were still hunting. Isaac’s hopes raised slightly. Kesegowasse had never expressed any interest in becoming better friends with Isaac, but at least he had never treated him roughly. Would he possibly become an ally now?
A shout boomed from Kesegowasse and Akando whirled around, accidentally slapping Isaac in the face with his outstretched hand. He looked confused and furious.
“Akando! What is this!” Kesegowasse burst through the crowd, fists raised.
Isaac heard an animal like growl come from Akando and he squirmed hard against the strap holding him to the tree, trying to pull free.
Akando saw him and grabbed Isaac by the hair, jerking his head back. “He will not save you. You not going anywhere.” The man hissed under his breath. He was so close to Isaac’s face that the boy could smell the bear grease he used on his hair.
“Akando!” Whirling back around, Akando jerked Isaac’s hair with his movements. Pain shot through Isaac’s head and he blinked hard to stop the black dots dancing in his eyes.
“Kesegowasse---” Akando snarled, his free hand clenching into a fist.
“How dare you!” Kesegowasse cried, taking a leap forward and scowling at any man behind him who dared to follow. “How dare you lay a finger on my brother!”
To Be Continued…