The misty morning air over the Nyambizi tribe‘s camp was surely being melted down by the hot hatred and the bitterness in the hearts of many a villager. The Mzalendo Mountains seemed to quiver at the face of the angered fists being raised in the air against the ancestors. The ancestors, on the other hand, were having their own crisis meeting, and thus explaining the reason why they were circling around in wild anticipation.
This was not a light matter. It was surely priority number one on the list of things that needed to be addressed speedily. Everyone wanted a solution, no one wanted to hear any more beating around the bush kind of stuff. The little children withdrew into the huts, emptying the streets of the market place. All the happiness and good cheer had evaporated into the atmosphere that was filled with venom.
The elders were too ashamed to even venture out of their huts. The tribal head of the council of elders, Mamba III was in his inner room, too scared to utter a word. They locked themselves indoors, and it was rumored that one had actually left in the middle of the night, to go “see” his in-laws across the ridge of Uwongo Mkubwa. This sacrilege had occurred under their watch, the so-called watchful eye of the wise men. The mood outside was close to escalating to a full-blown outcry for their banishment from the tribe for letting such a thing to happen.
This kind of shame had only been felt like this ninety years ago when the women had been ambushed by the young men of the tribe of Wambaje and defiled near the sacred stream of Myrak, the god of fertility. The torn hide skirts and the broken look that the women had been more than the men of Nyambizi could take. The late daughter of the chief told the elders then her story.
“I was with the daughter of Macau, the blacksmith and Makassar, the daughter of Mamba, the chief’s head archer at the stream of Myrak, washing our clothes and cleansing ourselves as our laws dictate. It was that time of the moon when the red liquid flows out of the cave and needed to be exorcised as the laws of Myrak say.
We had no idea that our neighbors from the Wambaje tribe would ambush us. They put square pegs in round sockets and we invoked the wrath of the goddess of fairness and justice, Lily on them.”
That time Nyambizi’s young men gathered in the middle of the night, took their spears, and drove them into the hearts of the perpetrators of that heinous crime. (They found them at the foot of the great oak tree. They must have had too much palm wine. The snores turned into muffled cries as breath left their bodies. The wine was the only thing left flowing, mixed with blood of these ruthless vermin.) The warriors took their heads to the chief, who ordered that two be placed at the border between the two tribes, at the banks of the great river.
The Wambaje chief received the head of the gang leader, which was sent to him in pieces, with a message that read in part… “We care for our women”. The chief of Wambaje, Mukhoobero II got the message loud and clear. He issued a decree that no person from his tribe would ever cross that sacred river. Nyambizi’s chief also ordered that the Wambaje pay tribute in lieu of the apology that was certainly due to the women of Nyambizi. The tribute was to be paid for ninety full cycles.
Ninety cycles officially ended two moons ago; the treaty was not binding any more. The tribute was to be paid no more. The people of Nyambizi had apparently forgotten its significance. The people of Wambaje, on the other hand, remembered every gruesome detail to the letter.
In Nyambizi, the war cry ran high; the battle trumpet’s sound reverberated in the air. The smell of blood was heavy in the atmosphere and the sight of the two skulls on the bank of the river brought back memories that could break the hardest of hearts.
Totola Mulagara was the leader of the Nyambizi army. His name rang in the mouths of the storytellers and the women who wanted their little ones to follow their instructions would warn them that Totola was coming to get them, if they disobeyed.
He was a soldier feared by his enemies and revered by his friends. Nobody would even dare challenge him to a duel. He was the best in the game. They said that he had a skin tougher than the hide of a cow. Nobody even dared to confirm if the rumor about his skin was true. When he raised his sword, it only meant one thing: death to the enemy and victory for Nyambizi.
In his heyday, he is said to have killed four men bare knuckled and slaughtered thirty men with his pocketknife. He had started when the sun was overhead and by the time, the last enemy was falling to the ground, the sun was busy kissing the uttermost hills, in preparation for a good night’s rest. His sword was called “The Widow-maker” by the rest of the soldiers (behind his back, of course).
Men of war, young and old alike rallied behind him two moons ago when the enemies from the plains, the Kikom tribe attacked. They were routed in the twinkling of an eye, as the blood flowed freely down the slopes of the hills of Uvumilivu. The rotten flesh and the chocking scent of dried up blood attracted the huge black birds of death.
The great Totola of the Nyambizi tribe was feared by enemies far and near, but of late, he had now become a target of ridicule among his peers. He had already hit three tens and two full cycles, and now was just about to hit the next. He had no home. No woman that he could claim ownership over. The community was getting restless about the situation at hand.
Meanwhile, in the Wambaje tribe, the chief Mukhoobero IV was sitted outside listening to the elders, speaking among themselves about what needed to be done. “Agreed,” he said with a tone of finality. The elders left the chief’s presence one by one, each to his own home. The details were not to be discussed with the children and would not be divulged to the womenfolk.
Totola was at the stream throwing water on his body, as was his custom late in the day. He insisted that this was the best time, since the gods came to watch the affairs of men at that time. He had placed his regalia at the edge of the stream. He glanced around and saw the most beautiful princess he had ever laid his eyes on. She must have been sent by the goddess of the river Myrak to be the answer of his problems. She had not yet seen him, she was too busy enjoying the water cascading her as she also threw water on her body. The sun shone on her body and she seemed to glitter. She however, did not seem worried on what the customs dictated since she was in plain view of the men who would be passing by.
“I’m…I’m…I’m…” he stammered when she saw him staring. “ You do know that you have to pay six goats to my father if it is known that you have been looking at me for all this time.” He blushed as he started to offer a thousand apologies for his inappropriate behavior. She was clearly enjoying the awkward expression on his face. Totola had never been so tongue-tied like that in the past. He was known as the slippery-mouthed one. All the women of the village loved the way words slipped out his mouth and the subtle suggestions found in his conversations.
She said her name was Mtraire, she finally told him. Though he did not know her, she told him that she knew all about him. She even told him that she knew of various exploits in lands far and wide. He even forgot that he was still without his regalia on. She, on the other hand, was not complaining. Whether she was awestruck by him or just cheekily enjoying the view, Totola did not know. He quickly went for his regalia and in a minute looked like the great Nyambizi warrior everyone knew him to be. He looked very mannish and she pointed that to him. His face turned hibiscus, as he could not find the right words to tell her. He seemed to believe that the ancestors had finally answered his prayers.
He invited her to his hut, and she agreed to follow him. He could not believe his luck, this was certainly a good day for the ancestors. He remembered his grandfather telling him that when a woman followed a man she barely knew to his hut, and then the goddess of barrenness Trufo got laid one more time. This, according to him, was a sign of the winds changing in a man’s direction.
The time of thieves was drawing nigh as they approached Totola’s hut and he suggested that she stay until the time of the cockcrow. She was hesitant at first, since her mother would be worried about her. He even promised to go and explain to her parents that he had given her shelter for the night. She reluctantly agreed. The gods started throwing darts to the earth and making howling noises as is the case when Trufo begins to cry. The ground was made wet by her tears. The rivers were mixed with the tears and the children ran out to play in the tears. It was said, in folklore, that the tears could make a child very clever. The wind god blew with all his might; his anger was visible as Trufo was in bed with another god. Mtraire clung to Totola’s huge muscles as the horrifying sounds became more and more terrifying. His moment had come! It had beckoned for so long. In the midst of all the chaos that surrounded the hut, a secret was made.
The approach of the sun into the rafters of his hut was what woke him up. He struggled to open his eyes as he had very little energy left in his loins. He got up only to find his amazing night companion was nowhere to be seen. He put on his undergarments and stepped out of his hut, his eyelashes still wrestling to stay together. He had no idea what to do. He was not even sure if he had been dreaming the whole escapade or if it had actually happened.
The trumpet of war is what brought him back from his reverie. He ran back into his hut and dressed up ready for the call of duty. He ran all the way to the chief’s abode and found the soldiers had started to gather. The scouts had seen advancing Wambaje soldiers crossing the river in the dead of night. They were carrying things that the scouts could not exactly make out, for reason of the darkness around. They were expected to reach the Nyambizi tribe outskirts by the time the sun was completely at the middle of the sky.
The meeting was short and to the point. The soldiers, led by Totola himself, were to head to confront the advancing troop. They were to engage them pleasantly, but with the readiness of violence at any hint of it from the enemy. The silence gave a hint of the huge apprehension that was very evident on the faces of the soldiers and the whole tribe. Fear is a great enemy, even to the greatest of warriors. Totola, however, had no fear on his mind. All he could think about was the experience he had just had the night before. He could not erase her image from the crevices of his mind. He was clearly either getting obsessed or falling in love; the thought of the latter scared him more.
Nyambizi soldiers saw the great caravan that was emerging out of the river-valley and they all instinctively drew out their weapons. The archers lay in wait, their arrows ready to pierce any infidel who dared disturb the peace. The visitors appeared unperturbed by the inherent danger and came closer and closer to the Nyambizi village territory. When they were just within earshot, their leader shouted, “We invoke the great Thalenian pact.” All swords were placed back in their sheaths.
This was the signal for the Wambaje men to attack the ill-prepared neighbors. They came out of nowhere and the whole valley was filled with men carrying huge weapons, howling like wolves that had seen a wandering goat. The swords were stopped by the flesh of unsuspecting Nyambizi warriors and the Wambaje were having a field day in the battlefield.
Totola was surely outnumbered. Muzika, the Wambaje warrior leader was about to thrust a sword in Totola when he managed to draw his Widow-maker and punched it into the shoulder of Muzika, who started to stagger backwards. He managed to slash Totola’s upper arm and blood started to gush out like water of theMuazimioFalls. This was not what Totola thought would happen to him. In his mind, he thought that he would finally go home with a wife. In his mind, he thought that these infidels would finally cave in and pay homage to them, as they should. In his mind, he thought that he would become a hero once again, having conquered the greatest battle of all: the battle to a lady’s heart.
All this was not going to happen; not now, not in the near future. He was lying in a pool of blood, though most of it not his own. Muzika was being carried on a horse back to Wambajeland. He was their hero; he had conquered the great Nyambizi hero, by the hand of a woman. He had used his enemy’s greatest weakness to bring him down to the ground. By the hand of a mysterious woman, a great tribe had been brought to its knees. The Wambaje elders could not venture out of their huts.
There was no source of recourse in sight. Every villager wondered what would happen now that their hero had not made it home. There was a huge outcry in the whole village. They did not have a leader to rally them to go to battle and defend their honor. All the able-bodied men were dead. The village had white-haired fickle men clinging to their rods for support. The village was full of people who only remembered how to hold a sword, but could not even lift it up. Children without fathers, mothers without sons, a village without defenders.
She watched all that was going on from a distance. She only moved closer when she was sure that they had left. She found him in the midst of all the dead men and with the help of her two brothers, carried him to a secret place by the lake. There she nursed him, praying to the ancestors to give him back to her. She was attached to him. She was sure if they found about what she was doing, they would kill her and be she would soon be forgotten. One night, was all it was. The love she felt inside was like they had been together for eternity. Totola opened his eyes, and saw her. This must have been a dream. He smiled and sank into a deep sleep. He knew it was all going to be fine.
I miss my father so much. One day, I will avenge him. Mother says that I look so much like him. My name is Tee Totola, son of the great Totola. This is my story.