Story based on Queen Arawelo…
Hovsep was carefully crouched on top of a branch of the last remaining timir tree on the plains. The ragged surface of the branch scuffed against her delicate toes, as she constantly shifted her tall, agile body in an attempt to maintain her balance. Droplets of sweat, caused by the searing Buraan sun, slithered down her elongated neck, ending their journey in the furrows of her adolescent breasts.
Her right hand was clasped tightly around a wooden spear, pointing directly at an antelope grazing in the distance. Crimson fragments still occupied the sharp tip of the spear, signifying her previous conquests. Her watchful, beady eyes darted around in their sockets, fixated on the creatures every movement. She watched as the harsh rays of the searing Buraan sun beat down on the antelopes russet fur, causing it to glisten majestically. Hovsep bit the outer corners of her dry lips and arched her lean back, causing the ridges of her spine to become more pronounced, resembling the scales of a jaranjaro snake. She tightened her already iron grip of the spear and jerked her right hand as far back as possible.
Hovsep immediately lost her balance and plummeted fifteen feet to the ground, creating a mini sandstorm upon her landing. She watched helplessly as the object of her unadulterated attention for the past fifteen minutes scurried off in the distance.
‘’Doqon, why did you have to that for?’’ Hovsep shrieked to Batulo who was the youngest and latest of her father’s wives. Batulo was fourteen, two years Hovsep’s junior. She was the daughter of Boqor Iftin of the neighbouring Haiwiye clan and had been married off to Hovsep’s father, the Boqor of Buraan , a few months prior, to keep the peace between the warring clans.
‘’I was this close!’’ Hovsep continued, gesturing wildly with her thumb and index finger in Batulo’s round face. Hovsep wasn’t too keen on her new stepmother, and hated that she had to drag her along with her on their hunting excursions. Such excursions had become very frequent in the past few weeks as a result of the drought.
As her father’s only heir, Hovsep had been delegated by the townspeople to lead the all-women hunting trips on the outskirts of Buraan, much to the disdain of her father’s advisor Adeer Ayanle who felt that her role in Buraan should be limited to womanly duties such as overseeing the goat herding. Hovsep relished in undertaking a man’s job to prove Adeer Ayanle wrong, thus taking her role as the leader very seriously.
‘’Now we probably have to go back to Buraan empty- handed because of you for the third time in a row!’’ Hovsep continued. ‘’They will probably think we’re some weak, feeble women!’’
‘’Sorry,’’ Batulo shrugged, looking down embarrassed.
As the sun set, Hovsep led the women back to Buraan, a look of disappointment etched on her tired face. They’d caught nothing.
‘’Abaayo, what are we going to tell them now?’’ Batulo exclaimed frantically, causing the other women to chime in with their grievances.
‘’How are we going to feed my children?’’ Udub, a short built woman in her thirties, inserted.
‘’And my mother hasn’t even eaten since Tuesday’’ another cried.
‘’The truth,’’ Hovsep shrieked above the drone of their complaints. ‘’We will tell them the truth. Now shut up with all of your whining and self-pity’’ she chastised. Dead silence fell amongst the women. Hovsep had a fiery temper, which the other women were cautious of and made sure to stay on her good side at all times.
‘’What do they expect from us in these times of drought?’’ Hovsep continued, however this time her tone had become softer. The women nodded their heads in a defeated manner and carried on their trek towards Buraan.
As was custom in Buraan, the inhabitants had gathered in a flock to see if the women had caught something. As they neared closer and it became evident to them that they had not, the crowd jeered and hissed at the women.
That night Hovsep was summoned by her father. As she entered his hut, the overwhelming aroma of frankincense, danced around her nostrils like impish sprites. She seldom visited her father’s hut, but when she did it was never good news. Her father was sat in the middle of the hut, dressed in a dark green macawis. His head was adorned with thick white cloth, swivelled around his scalp like a cobra, a lion tooth adorning the front. Adeer Ayanle was sat to his right in equally elaborate clothing. His protruding cheekbones and hollow eyes reminded Sagal of an eagle. His iris were the colour of charcoal with a ring of azure surrounding them, signalling his eroding vision.
‘’Sit,’’ her father ordered, looking directly at her, pointing to a rug in front of him. His iris were the colour of charcoal with a ring of azure surrounding them, signalling his eroding vision. The solitary source of light came from a flickering candle in its last stage of life.
‘’What do you have to say for yourself, Hovsep?’’ She hated the way her name rolled off his tongue, so harsh and severe, like he was spitting out chewed up khaat. Hovsep lowered her head, as she fidgeted with her fingers.
‘’Sorry father,’’ she mumbled quietly.
‘’I didn’t ask for an apology, I asked why?’’ His voice grew louder, and more irritated. ‘’The people are starving, some haven’t eaten in days’’
‘’We are trying father.’’ Her shoulders started to straighten up more and her voice become louder and more defiant.
‘’How dare you raise your voice at me you ebor woman!’’ He belowed, banging his fist on the ground causing the cup of geel milk in front of him to splatter all over Hovsep’s face and diraac. Ebor. That word rung around her ear. Nothing. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a masked grin appear on Adeer Ayanle’s lips.
‘’We are not miracle workers or goddesses, we are merely human beings father.’’ Hovsep insisted exasperated, as she attempted to wipe away the ivory liquid from her face. ‘’We cannot magic into existence beasts for us to feast on out of thin air.’’
She felt her father’s bony fingers reach out and violently grab a wisp of her hair. He intertwined the ebony lock around his index finger and pulled Hovsep closer as she winced in pain. He reached for his kished wrapped around his waist and unlocked his sharp bilawey and held it to her throat.
‘’Defy me again and I will slit your throat like a goat, you wacal!’’
As she looked up to see her father and saw the menace in his eyes, all the fear she’d internalised from all the years seemed to melt away. She no longer feared him. She just stared blankly at him as hatred overcame her body. She loathed her father for making her feel so small, so insignificant.
In the wilderness she felt powerful. The women were the leaders and breadwinners in the plains. But in Buraan, they were treated like second class citizens and Hovsep hated it. She hated how the men would take advantage of the women’s hunting prowess, but the women would receive nothing but indignation in return. Her mother had warned her about this as a child.
‘’Regardless of how much we hunt for them, they will never see us as equal,’’ her mother would constantly remind her.
‘’When I am Boqorada , I will castrate all the men of Buraan!’’ Hovsep would reply to her in jest. ‘’I will make them all odey biq’s.’’
That night as Hovsep slept, she convinced herself that when she was became the Boqorada of Buraan she would make the women all- powerful and punish the men for their arrogance.
The event of the night before repeated in her mind that morning as she set out before the crack of dawn. She decided to go alone this time, sneaking away from the group as they were getting ready to leave. Hovsep decided to hunt further into the wilderness, near the Hawiye village. Her father has warned her never to hunt near there, but Hovsep didn’t care. Not anymore.
The bushes near the Hawiye village were unforgiving. As Hovsep trekked through the uneven, bumpy trail, the thorns of the bushes tugged at her baati. In the distance, she could just about make out the silhouette of a man. Sensing danger, Hovsep decided to retreat back to her usual hunting spot several kilometres back.
As she continued to hunt, Hovsep heard the sound of leaves rustling, the sound growing closer and closer. Thinking it might be a lion, she placed her right, which was gripping tightly on spear above her head in an attempt to scare any beasts away. Suddenly, she felt something grab at her.
‘Idaaf!’ Hovsep shrieked. Her cries fell on deaf ears. The sweaty grip tightened on Hovsep’s delicate wrists. She could feel ragged fingernails dig deeper into her skin, causing her to drop her spear. She looked up and saw in fact that it wasn’t a lion but a man. His face resembled a hyena, saliva foaming from the corner of his open mouth which cased his limp tongue. His dilated pupils, surrounded by a sea of blood red were staring intensely at Hovsep.
‘Please!’ Hovsep continued. She reached out her free hand and frantically grabbed a chunk of his dry brittle hair and pulled as hard as she could, but the more she fought back, the stronger he seemed to get.
‘Hooyo!’ ‘Habaryer!’ Hovsep called out again, as tears cascaded down her cheeks. Her voice had turned into a piercing shrill.
He clasped his hand firmly around her mouth in an attempt to muffle her cries. Hovsep bit down on his hand as hard as she could but it didn’t seem to affect him. He pushed her down onto a raqay bush. As Arawelo fell, the thorns ripped through her baati and ravaged her thin legs, leaving a trail of burgundy in the forest bed. Arawelo tried to get up but she was quickly overpowered as he aggressively forced himself on top of her.
He ripped open her baati, exposing her bare, full breasts. Hovsep frantically kicked out her legs, the thorns pushing deeper into her skin, but she was numb to the pain. As her energy started to fade away, Hovsep could feel his rough hand travel aggressively up her left leg. All she could muster at this point was a meagre sob. She’d given up.
As his hands reached her thigh, Hovsep could feel his long, drawn out breath permeate her face as saliva escaped his mouth and splattered on her cheeks, merging with her already tear stained face. A grin emerged on her attacker’s mouth.
‘’When you return,’’ he said pointing in the direction of Buraan, ‘’you will be nothing but a wacal.’’ He started to laugh, exposing a set of brown, rotting teeth. Wacal. The word rang in Hovsep ’s ears. An immoral. Her mother had warned her about girls like that, and now she was going to become one.
An abrupt pain jolted through Arawelo’s naked body, causing her to shudder. She gasped for breath, but he continued. She tried to close her eyes but the pain was too intense. Hovsep could hear the shimbiro chirping peacefully in the distance. To Hovsep they were merely by standers to her demise. And again. As she looked up, she saw a tufaax tree, which as a child she’d climb to taste the sweetness of the fruits. Now the tree appeared distorted and hazy. Each branch now resembled claws, whilst its leaves resembled countless eyes, glaring down on her, judging her. And again. Hovsep closed her eyes again, and kept them closed this time, as he continued to ravage her.
When what felt like an eternity had passed, it stopped. She could hear the faint sound of footsteps and leaves rustling in the distance. As she opened her eyes, the harsh rays of the sun came blistering down, causing her to blink repeatedly. She looked down at her sore and bruised body. She could barely make out a thin trail of dried blood down her inner right thigh. Running into the dry barren ground. She grabbed her half torn baati and attempted to conceal her weak body. She mustered enough strength and ran in the direction of Lake Jubba.
She collapsed at the foot of the scarce lake and crawled into its murky, shallow contents. She frantically started to wash herself with the mud .Wash away the shame. She dug her fingernails into her skin and started scraping at her arms, her legs, the thighs, he face. She let out a long continuous scream as she continued to grate at her skin, deeper and deeper.
She hated how powerless she had felt, how small and worthless he had made her feel. She hated men, all men.
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