The Ishi and the Witch: Fantasy Short Story by Cam 2 of 3
The other Ishi were perplexed by the situation. Some reminded the rest that the witch's magic was never permanent, but would eventually wear off, much the same as the appearing and disappearing of the gate. The question was, which one would occur first, Billy resuming his human body or the disappearing of the gate?
In the meantime, Billy learned about the Ishi and their ways. He spent most of his time with Mist and the relationship reminded him of his friend, Stu, back home, although there was something a little extra between him and Mist. They traveled all over Ishland meeting new Ishi and exploring new streams, lakes and forests. All the time they were aware of the danger of human hunters.
Why do you think the hunters don't care whether they kill Ishi or The Others? Mist bent her head low to drink from a stream.
"It's not that they don't care. They just don't know there's a difference. To the humans, Ishi and The Others look the same, so as far as they are concerned, the two are the same." Billy bent his head down to drink as well. He still thought of himself as a human, but at times like this, looking at his reflection in the water, he was reminded that he had changed. He had already grown a small antlers which he took pride in. But the change was not simply physical. He was maturing and learning things he may never have learned at home. He thought of his parents and how heartbroken they must be. What did they think had happened to him. And Stu. He was a real friend. He'd need Stu if he ever was able to go home.
Billy lifted his head from the stream and water dripped onto his reflection, disturbing the image. He certainly did feel that way sometimes. In fact, his whole life had become a distortion, and the witch was to blame.
Billy and Mist heard a crunching sound behind them, like someone or something had stepped on a stick. They hurried away and hid under the low hanging branches of a fir tree. They waited until a human hunter came into view. Occasionally he bent down to examine the ground. He was following the trail which Billy and Mist had left. He was tracking them.
"Wait here, Mist." Billy was already leaving their hiding spot.
"Where are you going," said Mist. "You should stay here where we're safe."
"I can't do that. Someone has to stop the killing of the Ishi." Billy had no idea what he was going to do, but he did realize the incongruity of an elkish stalking a hunter. He turned a corner the hunter had already taken and saw the man pressing the butt of the rifle into his shoulder. He was taking aim at Mist who was still under the cover of the fir tree.
Billy acted instinctively, whether it was Ishi or human instinct, he didn't know. He hit the man's back hard with his head and antlers. The hunter cried out in pain and shock. The rifle landed on the ground a few feet away from both of them. The man moved first, but Billy was quicker. His hoof came down on the joint between the stock and the barrel. The wood splintered and the gun discharged.
The hunter cried out a second time. He rolled on the ground holding his thigh. Blood had already soaked his pants.
"You have to put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding," said Billy.
The man tried to look up at Billy while he writhed in agony.
"Take your shirt off and use it to put pressure on the wound. Do it now or you will bleed to death in a matter of minutes. Billy was glad that at least one lesson he had learned in Cub Scouts might do some good.
The hunter was disoriented by pain and the fact that an elk was speaking to him, but he pulled off his shirt and pressed it down on the wound. Satisfied that the man was doing it correctly, Billy ran off into the trees.
Within a few minutes, Billy bolted back into the clearing long enough to see that the man was still applying pressure to gunshot wound. Two hunters ran into the clearing as well and Billy dashed off and found Mist still under the branches of the fir. They listened to the hunter as he told the story about an elk attacking him, shooting him and then saving his life. That's when Billy left the safety of the tree for the second time and approached the humans.
"I could have left him to die," said Billy.
The men had been prepared for the idea of a talking elk by the wounded man's story, but it wasn't enough. They raised their rifles and aimed at Billy.
"It is time for men to learn the lesson that there is a difference between the animals they kill for food and other creatures known as Ishi. I am Ishi, and there are thousands more like me of different kinds.
The men slowly lowered the guns.
"I will be in this same spot tomorrow with many other Ishi. You go now, and come back tomorrow with as many of your people as you can persuade. It is time for men and Ishi to have a long talk."
The following morning, a contingent of Ishi made their way toward the meeting place. Many were worried that the humans might be lying in ambush for them, so they separated into four smaller groups. The humans had done the same and as they stumbled upon each other, fears began to subside. When they were all together, Billy stepped up first to speak.
"Have any of your people brought firearms?" There were nods confirming it. "put them all in a pile. If there was going to be violence, it would have happened by now." Billy walked away and left the next part of the meeting for Orin and owlish. The meeting of the two groups would thereafter be referred to the Treaty Between Ishi and men.
One important result of the meeting was the agreement that the witch had to go. The Ishi were amazed that the witch also terrorized humans. She may not have been like her mother in other ways, but when it came to behaving in an evil way toward those she considered her subjects, she was at least her mother's equal.
The witch used her magic to keep the Ishi and the humans in line. She was able to inflict disease and famine to weaken their resolve. Many had died and continued to die as a result of the witch's cruelty.
Whether by death or by banishment, she had to go so that there was no possibility of an heir to the throne. The Ishi and humans would each be independent and self governing. No one wanted to actually kill the woman. The question was, how could they get her to leave.
"Is there anything or anyone she truly loves?" said Billy.
"She has a daughter of about five or six years of age," said a crowish. "She loves the child dearly and sincerely. And she is teaching the girl magic." The birds, it seemed, had been spying on the witch for some time. With this knowledge, a plan was contrived to banish the witch and her daughter from the land of their kingdom. On the following morning, the plan was to be put into action.