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  • Milton Davis

Black Rose: Part Ten


Kesi’s camp gradually grew into a village. Her crew had cleared a substantial amount of the surrounding bush and built permanent homes from the trees. Patches of land were cleared and prepared for cultivation, and the harbor yielded large quantities of fish and shellfish to live. Still, there were items they needed that only a safari to the mainland would provide. The only alternative would be to seek them from Amaziah, and she had no intentions of doing so.

There was another thing bothering her, something that was an issue but went unspoken. The baharia were people of the sea. Except for fishing excursions, they had been landlocked for almost a year. Despite the work, she could feel their restlessness. They would have to set sail sooner or later. She thought of sending out a portion of the crew to trade, but who would she send and who would be left behind. She was also wary of dividing their strength. She didn’t know how long Amaziah’s generosity would last, and she needed to keep the dhow nearby just in case they had to abandon their refuge. There was only one thing to do.

The next morning, she shared her idea with Tukufu as they inspected the fields.

“Build another dhow? Are you serious?”

“Yes,” Kesi replied. “We need to trade, but we also need to keep a dhow handy just in case Amaziah gets restless.”

“It’s Amaziah I’m worried about,” Tukufu said. “If he visits and sees another dhow, he may see us as rivals and attack us. We only have a handful of people.”

“Maybe we need to change that,” Kesi said.

“How do we so that?”

Kesi smiled. “We make a trade.”

Tukufu looked puzzled. “With who?”

Kesi’s smile grew wider. “Amaziah.”

“Now I’m confused,” Tukufu admitted.

“Trust me,” Kesi said.

“I always do.”

Tukufu looked about. “Where is Danuja?”

“She’s on the dhow. She seemed to like working there rather than the fields.”

“Who doesn’t?” Tukufu said.

They were sharing a laugh when they heard the warning horn. They ran to the beach and was greeted by an ominous sight. Two dhows sailed into the harbor, both bearing Amaziah Tembo’s banner. Kesi’s heart sank as they neared the dhow.

“Let’s get to the boats!” she yelled. She was about to run when Tukufu grabbed her arm.

“No,” he said.

Kesi snatched free. “We have to help them.”

“We go out there now we all die,” Tukufu said. “It’s too late. All we can do is prepare for an attack here, Kesi. You know this.”

Kesi’s fears overwhelmed her logic.

“But Danuja and the others . . .”

“Are in Allah’s hands,” Tukufu finished.

Kesi’s arms dropped to her sides as she watched the dhows approach. She, Tukufu and the others looked on helplessly as Amaziah’s dhow came closer and closer to their dhow. As the vessels neared, words were exchanged between the nahodas. Amaziah’s ships sailed by the Nyoka without incident. The ships continued to sail until they reached the shallows. The sails were lowered, and the anchors dropped; soon after boats were lowered over the side followed by cargo nets. A few minutes later Kesi heard shouting and the cracking of whips. Her face bunched in disgust.

“These are slave ships,” she said. “Amaziah has sent us slaves.”

Kecia watched with anger as the hapless captives were forced down the cargo net into the waiting boats. She counted twenty-four men, women and children before the rowers made their way to the beach. The lead boat carried Amaziah’s representative, a tall woman covered in leather armor wearing two curved swords and three daggers around her waist. Her silk pantaloons met her scaled leather boots at her knees. A large straw hat covered her head and shaded her hard face. She swaggered up to Kesi and Tukufu before bowing with a flourish.

“Jambo!” she said. “I’m Tadiwa. I bring greeting from Amaziah Tembo and a gift to seal our alliance.”

She swept her arm toward the slaves sitting in the sand. Most of them hung their heads, while others glared at Kesi and the others.

“I didn’t ask slaves,” Kesi replied. “I told Tembo my presence here was temporary.”

Tadiwa peered over her shoulder.

“Doesn’t look temporary to me,” she said. “Besides, I’ve done my duty. Use them or kill them for all I care. I do know one thing; they will not be boarding my dhows.”

Tadiwa took a key ring from her waist belt and tossed it at Kesi. Tukufu stepped between them and caught it. Tadiwa smirked.

“He’s well trained.”

“He’s not my servant,” Kesi replied.

Tadiwa looked Tukufu up and down then smirked.

“He should be.”

Tadiwa laughed as she walked away. She signaled her baharia to follow. They boarded the boats then rowed back to their dhows.

“Give me the keys,” Kesi said.

“I should do this,” Tukufu replied.

“No, I should,” Kesi said. “They should know that this was my decision.”

Kesi strode to the enslaved people. The first person she went to was an older woman. The woman pulled away.

“Don’t worry, aunt,” Kesi said in Swahili. “I’m not going to harm you.”

Kesi unlocked the shackles. The woman’s eyes widened.

“I’m free?” she asked.

“There are no slaves here,” Kesi said. “What is your name?”

“Anatse,” the woman replied.

Kesi gave the woman a few of the keys. “Help me.”

Kesi and Anatse freed the others from their chains. Families hugged one another while others stretched and cried out in joy. Kesi let them express their relief before speaking.

“How many of you speak Arabic?” she shouted.

A few raised their hands.

“Swahili?”

The majority of them raised their hands.

“I am Kesi Masanja. If you are from Pemba, you know my family.”

A few people nodded their heads.

“If you know my family you also know that we do not trade nor do we keep slaves. As of this moment forward you are free.”

“Free to do what?” someone shouted.

“Whatever you want to do,” Kesi replied.

“What if we want to leave?” another person said.

“That will be more difficult,” Kesi admitted. There was a grumbling among the people.

“It is not what you think,” Kesi said. “We have only one dhow, and we cannot risk it. However, with your help we can build a new dhow and work our planting. When the time comes we will provide everyone who wants to leave a dhow to take them home.”

“And if we wish to stay,” Anaste asked.

“Then you can stay,” Kesi said. But if you plan to stay, you must know one thing. By freeing you I have made Amaziah Tembo an enemy. He may come to attack us one day. If he does, everyone the remains must submit to training and stand ready to defend our port.”

The people looked among themselves then slowly nodded.

“We will stay with you, daughter,” Anaste said. “It is a chance for us to start over.”

“Then are we in agreement?” Kesi asked.

The crowd nodded in agreement.

“Good!” Kesi said. “Welcome to our home.”


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