Black Rose: Part Nine
Kesi and Tukufu watched the boat approached. There were eight men, all armed. As they came closer, Kesi’s heart dropped. Amaziah Tembo, self proclaimed sultan of Kawa Island, was with them.
“Go back to the camp,” Kesi said. “Tell everyone to prepare to fight.”
“I’m not leaving you by yourself,” Tukufu said.
“The only chance for us to get out of this alive is for me to be by myself,” Kesi said.
“Don’t argue with me, Tukufu. Do as I say. And tell Roopa to stand ready.”
Tukufu hesitated before he nodded and ran into the bush. Kesi turned her attention back to the approaching boat. She took a deep breath, folding her arms across her chest. The boat landed on the beach and its occupants climbed out, Amaziah at the lead. He squinted his eyes then a smile creased his beard.
“Kesi? Is that you?”
Kesi forced a pleasant smile on her face then approached Amaziah.
“As salaam alaikum,” she said.
Amaziah bowed. “Wa alaikum assalaam.”
Kesi studied Amaziah’s handsome scarred face. There was no hint of tension, but Amaziah was a master of hiding his true feelings. She’s seen him have an entertaining meal with a person then cut off their head. She kept her distance beyond sword length.
“What are you doing on this side of my island?” he asked.
“We lost our way,” Kesi said. “You know how difficult it is to find Kawa, let alone land where you wish.”
“Not for you and your baba,” Amaziah replied. “You've been here many times. By the way, where is your baba?”
“He is in Pemba,” Kesi said.
Amaziah tilted his head. “Then why are you here?”
“Because the sultan’s son wants to marry me,” Kesi said.
Amaziah threw his head back and cackled. His men joined in his mirth. Amaziah wiped tears from his eyes before speaking.
“That weakling thought you’d actually accept?”
“He and my baba did,” Kesi said. There was no joy in her voice.
"I'm sure your loloba was enormous," Amaziah said. "I wish you had run off with it. I could have taken it from you."
Kesi chest tightened as she laughed.
“I understand why you came,” Amaziah said. “Spending eternity as fuel in hell would be better than being married to Rafiki. But what I don’t understand is why you didn’t come to me. You know you are welcomed here.”
"I didn’t want to disturb you, and I didn’t plan on being here long,” Kesi said.
“Your camp says otherwise.”
Amaziah walked by Kesi into the bush. His men waited until Kesi followed him. Everyone went about their duties, doing well to ignore Amaziah’s inspection. Kesi picked up her pace to join him.
“You’ve cleared fields,” he commented.
“Yes,” Kesi said. “The soil is good here. There is probably enough arable land here to sustain large farms.”
“And why would I want farms?” Amaziah asked.
“So you won’t have to raid ships for spoiled sorghum,” Kesi replied. “You can focus your energies on more lucrative cargo.”
“So now you are a pirate?”
“No. I’m a merchant. The only difference between you and me is that my clients live to deal with me again.”
Amaziah smirked then walked up to Kesi’s hut. He sat on the ground, picked a blade of grass then stuck it in his mouth.
“Kesi, let us talk. I’ve known you’ve been here for some time. I could have come with enough men to kill all of you, burn down your little village and steal your dhow.”
“Yet you didn’t,” Kesi said.
“No, I didn’t.”
Kesi sat beside Amaziah.
“I let you see this,” Kesi said. “I could have had my archers kill you and your men as you entered the bush.”
“That’s true,” Amaziah said. “So what is it that you want, Kesi?”
“I want to stay on this side of the island without your interference,” Kesi said. “In return we will create farms and supply you and the others. When we are ready to leave, I will turn everything over to you.”
“Why do I need you to do this? I have farmers.”
It was Kesi’s turn to laugh. “If you could have done it, you would have.”
Amaziah stood then dusted off his garment.
“You have your time,” he said. “Is there anything else you need?”
“I need more people,” Kesi said.
“You will have them as well,” Amaziah said. He nodded to his men and they surrounded him.
“Walk with me to the beach,” he said.
Kesi and Amaziah’s entourage returned to the beach. The others boarded the boat as Amaziah took one more look at the settlement.
“I am looking forward to working with you, Kesi,” Amaziah said. “Your family is well respected. Having you as a friend will improve my reputation. Goodbye, Kesi.”
“Goodbye, Amaziah,” Kesi said.
Amaziah was about to board the boat then stopped.
“Kesi, we have been honest with each other, haven’t we?”
Far from it.
“Yes, Amaziah, we have.”
“Is there anything else you need to tell me?”
Kesi shrugged. “What else could there be?”
Amaziah’s smile diminished.
“Nothing. Just a feeling I had. Until we meet again.”
Amaziah boarded the boat and his men rowed away. Kesi watched patiently until they reached their dhow, raised anchor then sailed away. Tukufu, Roopa and Danuja emerged from the bush then joined her.
“You bought us some time,” Tukufu said.
“Yes,” Kesi said. “He knows about Danuja.”
Danuja’s eyes went wide, and she rushed to Kesi’s side. Kesi hugged her.
“Don’t worry, dada” she said. “Once we deliver our first harvest Amaziah will forget all about you. And if he doesn’t, I’ll have to make him.”
Tukufu gave her a sideways glance.
“There will be a reckoning,” he said.
“I know,” Kesi replied. “But for now, we’ll be thankful for the blessings Allah has given to us.”
Kesi led Danuja back into the bush, and the others followed.