The sea was mellow as the night deepened, waves rolling gently following by the hissing of foam on the shores. Tribe Sri had already had dinner and conversed for the night, and most of the Jethi in the little shore side village were asleep.
Little Kameilo lay on her mat under her tent, trying to sleep and listen to the trees whispering in the cool, brisk wind above her. But it was useless. She was feeling sicker by the minute. Her fever was worsening, and every muscle in her body ached. Worst of all and she kept swallowing down the horrible ill feeling in her belly, where she felt something was awfully wrong.
The tears came at last, followed by the sobs. She could resist without weeping no longer.
"Kameilo?" came her her mother's voice, as she parted the hem of her daughter's tent.
The jethi cub sobbed with immense suffering. "Mommy!" she cried, panting. "My tummy!"
"Shh, I know, dear," her mother cooed, coming inside and kneeling down.
"Kammy," her father's voice came next. He peeked in, and when she saw how bad she was, his long ears fell and he frowned, heart-broken.
"You think we should take her Lakali?" her mother asked.
"N-no!" Kameilo pleaded, having been told what that would mean. "No."
"We have to, now," he answered.
Kameilo's breathing and sobbing became frightful. Her eyes were wide and terrified, jerking about as her turquoise irises glowed in the dark reflectively.
Her father picked her up in his slender, but strong jethi arms. She had been eating less and less the past few days, other than the medicine, and she felt light as a feather for a jethi cub.
As he carried her outside the tent, Kameilo reached back to her mat. "Wait!" she sobbed. "My Lynua!"
"I'll bring it, dear," her mother answered. "Don't worry."
A fire roared outside the tent of Umala, the old one, embers cracking and flaking off in the dark from threaded palm kindling.
Kameilo kept looking outside, waiting for Umala himself to come. She only knew the aged surgeon a little. He rarely spoke at the monthly tribal unions, and he always appeared frail and tired.
Her flesh burned hotly with the fever, and though her whole body ached, she kept flexing tensely with pain. And fear.
Footsteps in the sand approached, too young and brisk to be that of Umala. A younger Jethi male appeared walking in, Ikri, who was learning from Umala. In her hands--which had extra long fingers for a Jethi as a sign that he would be a gifted healer--he carried two long strands of sturdy rope.
Kameilo knew the time was close. She shut her eyes tight, feeling tremendously afraid.
"Momma!" she called in a wavering voice. "Daddy!"
"Kameilo!" she heard her mother's voice call desperately.
Ikri set the rope down and tried to stop her from entering the tent, politely. "Amali!" he said. "You mustn't."
She rushed past him.
Her father joined in as well, rushing in.
Ikri shook his head to the floor, his ears drooping down and his mane--fastened in a ponytail--waving back and forth.
"Dearest," Kameilo's father whispered in her ear, stroking her face to dry her tears.
"I don't want this!" Kameilo cried. "I wanna go home!"
"I know my little cub. I know," he spoke. "But this is for the best. Umala must do this so he can make you better."
"No! I'll take more medicine! I don't want this!"
"Kammy," her mother cooed. "The medicine isn't working. You're being attacked by a very strong gimri."
"I didn't eat! And I drank the medicine like you told! I'll drink more! Take me home!"
"A weaker gimri would have died by now," her mother continued. "But the gimri making you sick is stronger, and it's only getting angry. You can't take any more medicine, and you can't go on without eating anymore."
Her mother stroked her hair and brought Kameilo's face to her collar where she held her.
"Daddy," Kameilo cried shakily. "M-mama…"
Umala walked in and upon seeing the site in his tent he groaned. "I'm sorry," he said in a raspy voice. "Amali. Gioro. You must leave. The surgery is very-"
"Don't leave me!" Kameilo cried. "Ple-e-ease!"
Her mother held her more tightly, as did her father. The three of them could have been welded together if they held any tighter.
"I know it's hard," Umala spoke gently. "But try to understand. You know she'll be all right. She must be strong, now. Like a warrior."
Amali, Kameilo's mother looked at Umala in his one good gray eye. "One day she will be, I'm sure of it," she answered. "But she's not ready for that yet."
Ikri, Umala's apprentice came forward. "We shouldn't wait any longer. The more she's tense like this the weaker she'll get. Come, Amali. Gioro. Go someplace far. We'll fetch you when we're finished."
Kameilo spied him readying the rope.
"Kameilo," Ikri said. "Put you hands together like this and-"
"No!" Kameilo wept, burrying her face in her mother's chest and holding her tightly. "Mama! Daddy! Don't let him!"
Gioro, Kameilo's father finally faced Umala. "Surgeon," he said, not unkindly. "We're not going anywhere. Not for Kameilo."
Umala put his hands out, the tattoos on his wrists wrinkled. "The surgery is very intense. I can't let you see or interfer. No parents have ever had the heart." He patted his chest firmly. "I'm sorry."
Kameilo felt Gioro's muzzle to her ear and he whispered, "Daughter. If we hold you tight, and Ikri doesn't tie your hands and feet, can you be still enough?"
Kameilo peaked out from her mother's chest, quivering.
Minutes past while she thought about it.
"Please, dear. Can you?" her mother asked.
Kameilo nodded. "I'll hold still," she relented. "If you hold me tight."
Both her mother and father smiled with pride. "That's my brave cub," she said. "As brave as you need to be in this moment."
Umala, however, insisted, "I plead you both, leave it in our hands. You're not strong enough to be here during the surgery."
Gioro looked up bravely.
Amali was steadfast. "Kameilo," she said, "will keep us strong."
Umala looked as though ready to tear up.
Kameilo had never seen an adult cry before, much less the sage old Umala. "Very well," he said. "I understand everything. Ikri, put the rope away."
Her father put his forehead and against hers. "I'll hold your feet," he whispered. "Your mother will hold your arms. Remember, hold as still as you can."
He kissed her forehead lovingly.
Her mother rested her chin on the top of her head. "Lie down now," she cooed. "We will do this together."
Tensing and frowning miserably, Kameilo did as she was told. Her father held her feet firmly, whilst her mother held her by the shoulders, pressing Kameilo's head tightly against her chest with fervent love.
She felt her heartbeat racing faster than it ever had. She began to sweat with grave fear.
Umala went to the far side of the tent and washed something in a basin of water. Ikri knelt at Kameilo's side and lifted the hem of her fleece shirt, exposing her stomach for surgery, then Umala returned, drying something in a clean cloth.
"Close your eyes, my love," Kameilo's mother told her.
But Kameilo couldn't. She had to see, though dreading.
"Kameilo, don't look," her mother said resolutely, clutching her more tightly.
Umala knelt at her side opposite from Ikri.
"Close you eyes, Kameilo," her mother said.
But Kameilo, going into a fear-induced shock, watched as Umala exposed a long, thin obsidian knife, sharpened for delicate work…
Kameilo awoke feeling jittery to the bone. Her head was dizzy and she was listening to what sounded like her mother and father speaking with Umala just outside the tent where she was lying, but she kept lapsing in and out of consciousness and wasn't sure what they were saying.
She remembered hearing the word, "surrender," however, amidst the conversation.
When finally she was strong enough to stay awake, she opened her eyes a slit and saw an array of colors glowing through the thin leather fabric above her head. It was daybreak.
This time when she awoke. Her mother was lying beside her, a peaceful smile curled on her muzzle.
"Good morning, my little cub," she said. "My brave little cub."
"Daughter," her father said, hurrying in. His face was beaming. "How are you feeling?"
Kameilo swallowed some spittal in the back of her throat, but then felt her stomach tighten in immense pain. This time, it was not pain from an infection.
"Oh, Kammy," her mother said. "Relax now. The more you hold still, the less it will hurt."
"Is…" she tried to say, "Is it over?"
Her mother nodded, joyfully. "You fainted during the surgery," she answered. "But we held you tightly and we didn't let go."
"Umala was able to…" her father began, choosing his words sensitively, "get the gimri out and kill it. It's dead. You're going to get better for sure now."
"But it still hurts," Kameilo moaned. "So much…"
Both parents chuckled, albeit lovingly.
"It won't hurt for long," her father said. "You'll be sleeping better though. And you'll get to sip water and follo nectar while you heal. It'll be like dessert all day."
The little Jethi cub only moaned. She certainly wasn't having any fun.
"Kammy," her mother said, rubbing heads with her. "I'm so very proud of you and that agreed to go through with the surgery. You don't know how brave you were."
"I wasn't brave at all," Kameilo moaned, lying as still as could be. "I was so frightened."
"Well you know?" her father asked, lying on his side beside her opposite of his wife. "People are brave even when they're frightened to death. Even the greatest heroes in you bedtime stories."
"Really?" Kameilo asked, voice weak and raspy.
"Yes," he continued. "Sometimes, being brave doesn't mean you don't feel fear. It means you stay strong, and you don't run, no matter how scary it is, no matter how much it hurts. For a child your age, even just saying yes to something as scary as the surgery, that was very brave. You live up to your name."
"I never want to do it again," Kameilo moaned. "Never."
"Let's hope so," her mother said, fondling Kameilo's white mane. "But your daddy is right. It Is right that your name is Kameilo. Don't you know what your name means?"
Kameilo shook her little head.
"It means 'surrender,'" her mother said. She then winced. "Not surrender in defeat. Not like giving up. Your name, Kameilo, means 'to give in.' To 'let it be.' Sometimes, there is a need for that."
Kameilo felt her small eyes going heavy.
"Sleepy, little one?" her mother asked.
Her father got up from where he lay. "Ugh," he groaned. "I may sleep a night and a half!"
"I can't sleep," Kameilo whined. "It hurts."
"Here," her mother said. "Remember what Niami gifted you?" She withdrew a small pouch of the lynua, and opened it. The soothing fragrance of the crushed up rare flower petals flooded the air in the tent, relaxing her spirits.
"Close you eyes," her mother spoke in a loving, soothing voice, dipping her long fingers in the pouch and anointing Kameilo's forehead with the lynua. "Relax, my cub," she whispered happily. "The more you rest your little tummy, the faster it will heal."
Kameilo winced as her mother also gently rubbed a little over her eyelids.
"Think of floating in a canoe, on a gentle stream…the suns shining down, bright and warm, and the breeze is cool on your skin…"
Kameilo was still in much pain. But the lynua helped relax her, as did her mother's voice and presence. Though it hurt, she let go of her frustration and rested, as her mother sang her lovingly to sleep.
"Kami, ka-mi, kami kam.
Ri oru kam, siki nyu.
Siki mali oma jio.
Kam, kala ahi oru.
Oru toh koah talni.
Su kae roa, luku, marae.
Ky Kam, kami kami kami.
Kami seli roa su."