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  • Milton Davis

Black Rose: Part Six




Kesi was struggling with the anchor when she heard approaching footfalls. Her hand fell to her sword hilt. She looked up into the worried gazes of her crew.

“Go away,” she said. “You don’t want to be involved in this.”

Tukufu stepped forward.

“That’s for us to decide,” he said. “What’s going on?”

“Rafiki has been chosen to be my husband,” Kesi answered. "The sultan has approved and my baba accepted the loloba.

Tukufu’s eyes went wide.

“We must hurry then,” he said.

He grabbed the anchor rope to help Kesi while the others clambered onto the dhow and prepared for departure.

“What can I do?” Danuja asked.

“Go on board and get below deck,” Kesi said.

Danuja ran away.

“Where are we going?” Tukufu asked.

“I don’t know,” Kesi replied. “Right now, we need to leave.”

“They’re coming!” Amri shouted. Roopa appeared at his side moments later, bow ready and loaded.

Kesi and Tukufu boarded the dhow. The sultan’s warriors ran down the street leading to the docks, shoving hapless people out of the way. Kesi’s family followed, trying their best to keep up. Though they were far away, Kesi could imagine the fury on her father’s face and the disappointment in her mother’s eyes. But it was their fault. She told them she would never marry.

The dhow eased away from the docks, but not fast enough. The warriors were nearing the edge when Roopa loosed two arrows in rapid succession, just missing the feet of the closest warriors. They stumbled backwards, their eyes wide with fear. Both knew those arrows could have easily ended their journey in their eyes.

The commander of the warriors showed more bravery than his warriors. He stepped over the arrows, his narrow eyes locked on Kesi.

“Return at once, or face the anger of the sultan!” he shouted.

“Will the sultan withdraw his loloba and end this marriage proposal?” Kesi shouted back.

The commander leaned back as if struck by a blow to the chest.

“Of course not!

“Then I bid you all farewell,” Kesi said.

The commander spun then stomped away, his warriors following. He stopped long enough to glare at Kesi’s father then continued on.

“They will come after us soon,” Tukufu said. “The sultan’s dhows are fast.”

“We have a head start,” Kesi replied. “And they don’t know where we’re going.”

Tukufu turned his head to look at Kesi.

“You wish to go there?”

“It’s our only choice,” she replied. “We’ll stay there for a few weeks.”

Tukufu was silent for a moment.

“From one trap into another,” he said.

“We’ll land on the other side of the island,” Kesi said. “No one will know we’re there.”

“Someone will find out eventually.”

“Let’s hope we’ll be on our way by then.”

“You should tell the crew,” Tukufu said. “They should have a choice.”

Kesi nodded then ambled to the center of the dhow.

“Everyone listen,” she shouted. “I am humbled that you’ve chosen to leave Pemba with me. It is a dangerous choice, but you have never been baharia to shirk from peril.”

The crew nodded and smiled.

“However, the sultan is not a man to give up easily,” she continued. “Therefore, we must go somewhere beyond his reach, at least for a time. We go to Kawa.”

A hush swept through the dhow, as Kesi expected.

“You don’t have to take the journey with me,” Kesi said. “We can sail to the nearest port and you can be on your way. No one will think less of you. If you wish to do so, raise your hand.”

The crew did not stir, every baharia keeping their arms at there sides or crossed across their chest.

“So be it,” Kesi said. “We sail to Kawa. Allah protect us.”

The crew dispersed back to their duties. Danuja came to her, concern etched on her young face.

“What is this Kawa?” she asked.

“It’s an island,” Kesi said. “Not many people know of it, but those who do are not to be trusted.”

Danuja looked thoughtful for a moment.

“Are they Woku?” she asked.

Kesi smiled. “Yes, and no.”

“Then you must teach me how to fight,” Danuja said.

Kesi hugged the girl.

“It seems I’ll have to,” she said. “This is not the way I promised to protect you.”

“My father would approve, I think,” Danuja said. “I’m still alive.”

“Yes you are,” Kesi replied. “Let’s keep it that way.”


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