‘I looked on the Phrygian men with their swarming horses, so many of them, the people of Otreus and godlike Mygdon, whose camp was spread at that time along the banks of the Sangarios : and I myself, a helper in war, was marshalled among them on that day when the Amazon women came, men’s equals.’”
Homer, Iliad 3. 185 ff (trans. Lattimore) (Greek epic C8th B.C.)
Tall, strong and fierce, she ran as a jaguar down through the forest canopy towards the sea. Without a wasted movement or misstep, she sped onward, hoping to catch a final sight of the Niña as it sailed out, carrying part of her heart with it.
She barely noticed as two large Taino warriors leapt out of her path to keep from being trampled. The path wound round the base of the hill along the edge of a small sea-grass filled lagoon. The allamanda vines, the flower for which she had been named, grew thick on the Cojoba trees here, their fragrance almost overpowering at some points as they clutched at her passing, the warm, freshening breeze bringing in the clean smell of the sea at others.
Twin tattoos, running solidly an inch wide straight back from her eyes and disappearing into her hair accentuated the single minded determination and focus on covering the ground as quickly as could be.
Subtle hints would tell an onlooker that this state of agitation was quite unusual for this normally calm and austere young leader. She brushed an offending tear from her eye as she purposefully sped down the path, a surprised, displeased look of disgust and amazement as she angrily flung the perplexing moisture away.
She leaped over the natural bridge formed by a cieba tree that had fallen ages ago, its surface worn smooth by the passage of countless feet over a hundred years, to a point of sand and rock that jutted out into the azure Caribbean, a favored spot.
She stood frozen in place, staring intently out to sea. The path was the same, the sea the same, the air, the smells, the clouds all. But for her everything had changed, all was overhung with foreboding, sadness and unease. She stepped a few yards into the cool water, straining for a view of the ship. It seemed it had already passed from sight by the time she arrived at the spot.
She felt so alone…
Her chest heaved from the exertion of the run as well as from the deep sobs that began to wrack her body. Her friend, confidant and jewel, her precious cousin, the princess Guacaa had been taken away by the Arike, the invader Cristofo Colón, Columbus the explorer and trader, on his ship, the Niña, to his homeland of Hispania, far, far to the East.
Her poetic bent felt that the sand being dragged from beneath her feet by the receding wave was the perfect metaphor to describe the foundations of her life as they were being torn from under her.
Allemanda was now truly disconsolate.
To the east the darkening clouds reflected perfectly in the calm sea, dark beneath with towers of brilliant white billowing above. Her only true friend had sailed into that gathering storm.
As the Niña suddenly blossomed directly in front of her just two leagues out, she absently realized that she had been looking too far to the east and that they had sailed directly north to catch the prevailing west wind, the sails filling with the stiff breeze that would carry them back to Spain. She was both pleased and saddened by this glorious sight.
As she looked on she accepted stoically, perhaps even proudly, that she did not fit in with other Taino youths. Being of the Cacique, the ruling family, was quite intimidating to most of her people. While not exactly shunned, her quiet, stern demeanor kept the others of her age and even most adults at a distance… which she didn’t mind in the least. Only her cousin could be counted on as a stand by her, even in her darkest moods.
A small gust of breeze sent a refreshing spray from the tip of an incoming swell, two sandpipers scurrying past as the wave swirled again around her ankles, her feet settling an inch deeper into the sand.
Her gift of sight also set her apart, as her grandmother and great-grandmother had warned her it would. It was difficult for her to simply talk with others, their aura of good or bad intentions, feelings, health, or well-being came in so much louder than their words. The quick flashes of intuition of their future were annoying and distracting though she had learned to mostly ignore them. Others were quite put off when she would not reply to a greeting or question, but simply stare back intently and seriously, seldom responding verbally until after a protracted and awkward pause.
They felt as if she were looking into their souls she had been told. As it had been going on her entire life she no longer gave it a second thought.
But Guacaa was different.
Having grown up together, her cousin was used to her ways and took Alle’s oddities as a matter of course. Without the gift, Guacaa was still generally able to know her cousin’s thoughts intuitively, and could chatter away enough for the two of them with little encouragement from her quiet cousin. Up until recently there had been no earth shattering events or perceived coming catastrophes to concern the youths of Haiti, and the young, both male and female, were able to simply enjoy an almost worry free adolescence.
Alle was able to enjoy vicariously, the life of a Taino maiden as Guacaa would describe the flock of boys chasing after her, the jealousy of her rivals, the things said and done by other youths in their day to day life. They had spent the entirety of their young lives together.
Still, she had her brother Cuan, whom she was quite close to, and there was a fondness growing between her and the beautiful, intriguing Basque leader, Lliago, one of the thirty nine men left behind by Colon (she smiled through her tears briefly, thinking of him).
Her overwhelming anger at her parents however, especially her father, leader or Cacique of the Taino people, had damaged this usually close relationship with her parents beyond repair.
How could they have left her precious Guacaa in the hands of the arike, the enemy, the strangers from another land that clearly had evil intentions toward their people, the Taino of Haiti?
She felt a pang of guilt remembering that her youngest brother was also on that ship. Her filial love for him though, was completely overshadowed by the loss of her bosom confidant.
The salty spray mingled with her tears…
Alle could not recall ever having cried, this may in fact, be the first time, but her tears were flowing quite freely now. She had a clear sense that this would also be the last time, and that her childhood had just ended, perhaps the childhood of the Taino people as well. A fierce determination settled in her soul, that no more Taino would suffer at the hands of these invaders.
How many times had she been so happy in this spot, no concerns for the future, at peace with her world and her place therein? She mourned for the innocence of just two moons past. She mourned childhood’s end for all the Taino to come. She let out a last painful sob for the loss of her precious Guacaa.
The future had always been seen quite clearly, but now it was shaded with the gray dinginess that signaled malevolence or illness. She could only sense an evil foreboding, a feeling that great trials were headed their way.
Hours later, she startled herself awake and was astonished at the anger within as she awoke from an exhausted doze. The sun was setting behind the hills, the sky on fire before her. She had cried herself out and her sadness had hardened into a smoldering fury.
“She might simply kill them all,” she thought coldly, dispassionately staring again into the far distance, the green of Cuba reflecting into the clouds in the northwest.
What were the lives of thirty nine ignorant, destructive and evil invaders compared with the secure future of her people?
For many youths, the idea of such a monumental and drastic measure would not even come to mind, but as introverted as she was, Allamanda was well aware of her assets, abilities and responsibilities. She was of the Cacique, the proud and powerful warrior family that had brought her peoples safely from the barbaric and diseased land to the south.
From her earliest memories she had been being prepared for leadership. Though her brother Cuan would undoubtedly be Cacique when her father passed into the dark land beneath, her obligations to the Taino and her stewardship of them had been instilled in her as one of the Cacique’s family.
She removed her cotton skirt and waded into the warm water; the sharp remaining shells of sea creatures were felt but were unable to puncture the tough calloused souls of her feet. Diving in once it was sufficiently deep; she swam beneath for perhaps 30 yards, pushing herself some beyond where her lungs screamed for air. The exertion and the refreshing water soothed her mind and as she rose to the surface she found she could still stand with just her head clear of the still, calm sea.
No man on the island was equal to her in speed or endurance. A hand taller and lighter than the men, she could run circles around them. She looked down and admired her two strong arms as she raised them from the clear water, their toned muscles shedding droplets as gooseflesh appeared in the faint breeze. Having grown up with the hand held and foot held bows, she was seldom equaled in her abilities there, a skill she constantly honed.
Her laconic manner caused most to listen attentively when she did speak, and she rarely had to issue a command or wish twice. She had a personal guard of sorts, mostly of men she had hunted with, sparred with and often fought with. They were completely loyal to her.
She returned slowly back to shore, floating on her back, noticing
that a few brighter stars were starting to appear as the evening advanced. She longed for someone to discuss her thoughts with. What might Lliago be doing about now?
As far as opportunity, she thought, it was only a matter of time before another Hispanic invader would force his attentions on an unwilling Taino female. Should she call on her warriors to crush these creatures she had little doubt of the result. None of them were pleased with the treatment of the Taino at the hands of these arike fiends.
As angry as she was with her father however, she was loathe to go against his wishes. Somehow, disappointingly, he was simply unable to see the threat.
Taking matters into her own hands could be justified, in her own mind at any rate. But she would not go against him lightly.
She could be patient however, this she had learned from both her parents, an attribute that would be essential if she were to, one day, be any kind of leader. Slowly she would work on her father who, once he got over the shock of being wrong, could be brought to take the proper steps in the future.
She strolled despondently yet resignedly back towards Marie’n, her village, her home, stopping by the small cascade and pool formed by the stream just before it entered the lagoon. She rinsed the salt and sand from her body, the cool water clearing and calming her mind and soul. A fish jumped in the lagoon and the frogs quieted for a moment or two.
Whatever it took however, once Guacaa was back safely, as Colón had promised to do within a year, a return that she had seen clearly in the future, she would take measures to assure that this was the end of this travesty, even if it meant killing them all…
Except Lliago, she might just keep him as a pet…