himba is a tribe found in namibia
ngoni is a tribe found in Malawi. this tribe is known to be strong and have great military organisation.
masuku- is a sugar plum. The scientific name is uapaca kirkiana
Elder Zidana placed his elbows on the glass table between us.
"You are wondering why I am sending you with Nyasha and Mazaza."
He read my thoughts.
I nodded my head. My eyes focusing on the Chewa tribal paintings on his work room's wall.
"She is Khataza's daughter. Our spies say she is skilled and cunning. She could slip out of Nyasha and Mazaza's grasp. And this mission is too important to leave to even the most elite group of soldiers in Utawaleza."
Zidana smiled. I managed a small smile. He glanced down at the drawing of Khataza. His expression tensed. "There only way Khataza slipped through the border was if he had help. I think he has someone backing him here in the Mchengautuwa. I will try to find his accomplice while you are gone."
"When do I leave?"
"Tomorrow. " He pulled himself up. "Come, we should meet the girl."
We walked out of his home to the Council's chambers.
The petite milky skinned girl, with long golden hair manipulated into intricate lines that went down till her mid back, knew her weapons. Khataza must have spent many years training her. I would have preferred to stay here and continue my training. I had started to get used to shadowing Zidana to his meetings. At least I was going with Nyasha.
"I am looking forward to this. I have been itching for an adventure." Nyasha said, passing me a bowl of water.
I dipped my hands in the clear water letting it dissolve the remnants of that evenings' meal. "I would rather stay here." I placed the bowl on marble table between me and Siopi and Nyasha.
"You would always rather stay," He glanced at me then his wife who was seated on the stool beside him. "Never willing to depart from your comfort zone."
A slight smile tugged at my lips. It was true.
"I heard she is dangerous, skilled and ruthless." Siopi, his himba wife said.
"Don't worry, I will protect our revered elder's protégé." Nyasha crowed. His wife rolled her eyes and smiled.
"I don't know why I am friends with someone who enjoys teasing me." I said.
"Because no one else will take you." Nyasha retorted amidst laughter.
"Yes, that's why." I said sarcastically.
Siopi and him both laughed at this. Siopi placed her hand on Nyasha's shoulder and glanced at me. "Bring him back safe."
"Are you sure you want that?" My eyes darted from Siopi to Nyasha.
She leaned over the table, cupping her fingers over her mouth. "No I am not sure. Please make sure he does not return."
Nyasha pulled a straight face long enough to say, "I see how it is." Then burst out laughing. We all laughed.
"I should retire to my quarters." I pulled myself up from my stool. Nyasha stood up to escort me to outside his hut. We walked past the gate encircling their compound. At the road, he returned home and I continued to my quarters. I wish I had what he had with Siopi. They were both soldiers in different divisions but both part of the Mlenje group. Nyasha often said he was happy he had found a mate in the Mlenje group. For they understood each other. My mate was to be chosen in three months' time. I did not know where from. I looked forward to having a mate, someone to confide in, someone to laugh with, someone to hold and be held by. I trusted Zidana's wisdom. After all no one knew me as well as he did.
The cart descended sharply, lifting Khuze from the edge of the cart, jolting her awake.
"You are tired one." Nyasha said with a smile.
"These last two days in prison have been there only time I got a full nights' sleep in weeks. Because of the dogs you sent to hunt me."
I glanced at the opening of the canopy. In the distance were cows being led by a herdsman back to the Mchengautuwa. Khataza's daughter was just as pleasant as I thought she would be.
"We should stop for lunch and the bulls need to graze." Mazaza said. He brought the cart to a halt. We jumped out. Nyasha brought out the satchel that the kitchen staff had packed for our trip. It had cured beef strips. He distributed the biltong. After this break we got back into the cart. I finished my portion faster than everyone else mostly because Nyasha and Mazaza were conversating. The mountain before us ,named Elephant, mountain was a multitude of rocks.
We rode till the sun was about to depart from the sky. Nyasha suggested we spend the night in an encampment he knew.
"It's a village of exileds. They are not too friendly with the council. So make sure your marks stay hidden." Nyasha said.
Khuze fixed her glare on me. "They are not there only ones who hate you megalomaniacs who call yourselves the elders."
I said nothing. Nyasha took over the cart from Mazaza, driving up till we got to the foot of the Elephant mountain.
"Where is it?" Mazaza asked.
"You will see," Nyasha retorted. He led us through a large hole on the side of the mountain. The hole led to a large opening with rectangular huts, people and a river forming a semi-circle around the encampment.
A man with a similar tall build as Nyasha gave Nyasha a long embrace. Nyasha introduced him as his cousin on his maternal side. He introduced all of us as his companions. His cousin took us to his hut and offered us a drink of water and baobab juice. Nyasha told his cousin that me and Khuze were a couple looking for a herbalist in the east who could protect her against bone collectors. Him and Mazaza were transporters helping us get there. I was not comfortable with this cover. They might make us share a room, I thought to myself.
"Why have you stayed so long from visiting us?" His cousin asked.
I bit into the grilled goat meat him and his wife had served as dinner. Him and his wife had killed a goat in our honour.
"My work is to escort people where they want to go. I am rarely home." Nyasha retorted. His eyes were on the floor of the hut. After an awkward exchange involving Nyasha promising to visit, we were led to our rooms in the hut. Mazaza and Nyasha were made to share a room, and so were me and Khuze.
There was one kama at the centre of our room.
"I don't care who you are, you are taking the floor." Khuze said.
I unrolled a mat I had brought. "I would not want to sleep next to someone who plans to kill me in my sleep anyway."
A reluctant smile tugged at her lips, she let out a small chuckle. "So he speaks."
Khuze went through her satchel no doubt looking for something to wear in the night. I exited the room. I re-entered after knocking.
Khuze was already lying on the kama. "I hope you don't snore."
"I don't but I occasionally sleep talk."
"If you start to blabber, I will wake you." She said sleepily.
After warm baths, a morning meal of hot porridge made from masuku powder, and gifts of cured meat and fruit, we exited the encampment.
"Why the cover story of us married?" Khuze said when we could see the elephant mountain in the rear-view.
"Because it was the most convincing tale. Mazaza and I look like we would be your transporters indeed," Nyasha responded.
"It's a beautiful village." I said.
"Humid and hot too." Khuze muttered.
Nyasha dropped his lifted knees, straightening his legs. "It is beautiful, and yes very hot. I wish I could visit more often."
"How come they don't know you are a mlenje?" Khuze asked. How did she figure out he was a mlenje. Her father probably trained her how to spot mlenje soldiers.
"Because if their encampment knew, they would ostracise anyone who shared my blood."
"They hate the council that much?" I asked.
He nodded his head in response. The cart passed through baobab trees. I reached into the satchel and pulled baobab from the fruit satchel they had given us at the encampment. I cracked it in half by hitting it against the cart once. I passed it to Nyasha. He took some and passed it to Khuze.
"How did your family end up in the encampments?" Khuze asked taking a couple of seeds from the baobab shell.
"My father was a third generation exiled. He stayed in the encampments because the woman he fell in love with was a first generation exiled. He did not want to be parted from her. Our encampment was near a Vukutu territory. They were at war with another Vukutu clan, and they were forcefully conscripting any male more than 13 years old. My father died in that war. I would have died too but luckily we were rescued by the council's soldiers."
"Your life has been hard. It has been hard because of the Council's decisions." Khuze said focusing a cold glare on me.
"The council rescued me though."
Her ivory skin was pale red. "You would not have been in that situation if they didn't have the rule about children of people exiled not being allowed to return their homes."
"Most tribes wanted any spawn born in exile to remain outside their territory permanently. It was the council that amended this to allow third generation children to return." I said calmly.
She threw a look at Nyasha who was seated beside me.
"It's true, the council begged the tribes to allow the first generation children to return from the harsh life outside the comforts of their homes but they refused." Nyasha elucidated.
It dawned on me. She could not return home. The ngoni had handed over Khataza to the council as a war criminal and she had left with him. Tainting her in front of her kinsmen's eyes. Where would she go after all this?