Four lions attacked us. When the first lion came forward, they panicked but after seeing that my faux snake method worked they began tossing their belts too. The curled up belts appeared like snakes to the lions. The lions ran off in fear.
I caught Ntawale starring at Ipyana a few times. He was not taking his own advice. Neither was I, my mind flooded with thoughts of Zimatha. I found myself trying to remember the motion of her caressing my markings. The lab was inside a mountain. We walked into the mouth of the cave at the base of Miji mountain. The cave led to a large hole, which had a river. The team's faces mirrored fear when they realised we had to use ropes to access Mlunduli's lab. I assured them the rope would not snap. Zima would not have cared. She would have gone down first. They were holsters attached to the ropes. I put on my gloves and lowered myself into the hole. The holster ensured, one descended into the hole with a slow speed. After everyone landed on the ground beside the river, we got into one of the boats. I had been replaying the entrance dance as we crossed the river to the side of the lab hidden behind the mountain's wall. Once we got to the hidden entrance of Mlunduli's lab, I did the dance. I must have looked like I was having a seizure to the rest of the team. The keypad appeared out of the wall. I typed in the passcode. It did not work. I told the rest of the team that someone was inside. Naledi took out a small portable keyboard and synced it to the keypad.
"I am about to open it but if we continue whoever is inside will be alerted of out coming." Naledi said.
Wiza glanced up at me. "There is no other way in?"
"If we wait twelve hours, it will open automatically." I retorted.
"That's far too long." Wiza sighed. "Let's all get ready to meet highly trained sociopaths."
I brought my rifle blaster from my back to my front, holding it in my palms ready to shoot.
The door opened, four Ulalo soldiers fired at us. We entered shooting. One of the beams hit Mwase's stomach. Once we had taken out all of the soldiers, Ntawale rushed to Mwase. He took off his uniform's jacket and used it to stop the bleeding on Mwase's wound.
"Stay with him till the second team arrives." Wiza told him. She clumped Lindi, Luntha, Naledi into one group and the rest of us went with her. The other team checked all the rooms to the left, while we checked there ones to the right. The third room we entered had two guards on the floor, and the ten men in cubicles were all laying at their desks dead. Wiza touched one of their tea mugs. She said it was still warm meaning they had just arrived. A flash of light tore through the dark room, Ipyana had shot at one of the guards lying on the floor. She rushed to him and turned his body. "He was Ulalo."
I did not notice him rising to shoot us. It was a good thing she responded quickly.
"Nice shot," Wiza smirked. "Police toughened you."
We continued, sweeping each room we came across till we got to the room that housed the EMP. We waited for the other team to finish sweeping the room they were in. When they did, we pushed the door open, shooting beams as we did so. Beams accelerated our way, we hid behind the wall holding the door. Naledi sprayed beams at our assailants as Lindi tried to enter the room. Lindi was hit, Naledi dragged her back into the corridor. We held out our rifles at the door, hiding behind the wall and shooting through the door. Even from behind the door, I could see the different intensities of light fighting for dominance in the room. Wiza stood, using the camera on her rifle she peered inside. There was a tall woman whose face I recognised from the briefing on Ulalo that Wiza and Anyazgambo gave me, shot the leader of Ulalo and the other soldier she was with.
"It's safe to come in." Lwando said. Cautiously Wiza entered the room, we all followed slowly still holding our rifles close. The rest of her team laid on the floor dead. Lwando had shot Diminga and Kalulu. The rest had been killed by us. In the far corner was a rectangular black box the size of five people with a single keypad. The EMP.
"We need to load this thing into my pod. We haven't much time." Lwando said. "Diminga killed all the scientists here. I don't how to hook this up to the border."
"I do. We are required to learn." I said walking up to the EMP. Lwando showed us her pod which was parked on the other side of the mountain which was in Chitipa. I typed on the keypad getting the EMP to shrink to the size of a single person. We carried into Lwando's pod. Then flew to the border's gate. The border was deserted. The workers must have been killed by invading warbots. We loaded it into the control room. I got to work attaching it to the border. It involved attaching a couple of wires to the border's control which was a large computer the size of two people. I typed in the command to switch it on.
"It's operational. The war is over." I announced. We all hugged each other. It was this time, I noticed Lwando was gone. She must have snuck out as I hooked the EMP to the border.
We walked through the warzone which was now littered in lifeless warbots and some of our fallen soldiers. Once we got to the camp, we went to the clinic. Lindi, Mwase and Ntawale were all fine.
"You have all done a good job. Utawaleza is forever grateful to you." I said.
They all nodded.
"Tomorrow I leave for Mchengautuwa to brief the elders on what has happened here."
Wiza, Ipy, Ntawale and Naledi each gave me a hug. I leaned and embraced Lindi who was in her bed and did the same with Mwase. I exited the clinic. How was Zimatha? Was she still in Songani?
Zidana's elbows were on his desk. "Naliwa is there one who promised Ndhlovu he would have the Council's backing if he attacked Mdhulo's territory three years ago. I think he did that so that the blame would fall on Khataza, so that he and Diminga could manipulate him into doing their bidding. "
I nodded my head.
"The good that has come from this is the Zamanian government has accepted the League of Jume's request that we have our own intelligence gathering organisation like KUA and ZUA. It will be called UTA because Uta means arrow. And this will be our arrow."
"That is indeed good news...erh where is Zimatha?"
"She is in her room. Her father was executed last week. She has been depressed ever since." He withdrew his hands from the desk. "To give everyone a sense of normalcy in all this madness your betrothal will go on as planned. It will be in the next moon."
I nodded my head.
Back in Mchengautuwa I could not meet Zimatha in her room. So I asked the house maid to tell her to meet me at the garden beside the Lunguzi river. She walked down the bridge leading to the gardens. The green robe she wore wrapped beneath her shoulders made her look radiant. Her face was red, with marks of tears. I lifted myself from the mat I had brought and closed the distance between us. She threw herself into my arms, I pulled her close.
"I am sorry."
She was silent. I led her to the mats I had laid down on the grass. "How are you?"
She bent her neck, her eyes met mine, giving me a response. I caressed her hand.
"I heard you went."
"He asked me to be there so he would have someone who loved him amidst all the jeering."
"It was brave of you to go. And magnanimous of you."
She told me that she met him the day before his execution. "Next week, I will go with the emissaries and tell his children of his death. After that I will go and live with my small mother."
My fingers caressed her knuckles. "Small mother?"
She told me about her younger motherand her offer. A pang clenched my heart. She had no life here. I was going to get betrothed in a few weeks. Maybe it was best she left indeed. Seeing her would be painful.
I withdrew my hand, placing near my hip. "Take care."
"What happened to your arm?"
She looked at the bandage near her elbow. "An assassin tried to kill me in Songani."
She narrated the ordeal of the two attempts on her life.
"That is frightening."
"It was very frightening."
I took out honeycombs from my satchel. "A little sweetness on this bitter day."
She chuckled receiving them. "What about you? How was your time at the war front?"
I told of my exploits at the warfront. It was dusk when we walked back to Elder Zidana's house. She clasped my hand, I slowly pulled it away. "The betrothal ceremony is next moon."
Her face was blank. I turned around, walked back to my quarters leaving her there.
I had not moved on, that much was clear. But the betrothal was next month? I pulled myself from my kama and walked to my window. I had to avoid her. That's what I had to do. And that is what I did for the month leading up to my betrothal.
Ten of us protégé entered the hall filled with spectators from different tribes. I saw my cousins in the auditorium. Us ten, were led to the centre. There was singing, drums and a lot of cheering. Each of us were dressed in our tribe's regalia. Zidana walked up to me from the other side of the circle, as did the other elders to their protégés. Zidana blindfolded me. I knelt. This was happening. I could have run away. I could still run away. And find Zima, take her across the border and start a life together. I heard the footsteps of the betrothed entering. I felt someone near my knees. Zidana placed my hand in hers. He removed the blindfold. Her arm was pale cream. I raised my gaze, seeing a figure in a blue robe, which had a beaded corset with silver and purple beads. It was Zimatha. I wanted to hug her but that was not appropriate. I stood up, helping her up. Before me, I saw the other elder protégé do that with her betrothed. I put her arm in mine, as we swayed to the sounds of the drums. She looked so beautiful. Her golden hair looked like waves of the Rukuru, flowing from her head to her back. Was she happy to be mine? The betrothed were always willing, told who their matches were.
"Won't you comment on how beautiful your bride to be looks?" Her voice cut through the drums and singing.
I chuckled. "No I won't."
She frowned with her eyes but her lips refused to comply. They were defiantly smiling.
"You look very beautiful," I glanced up and down, taking it all in again. "Bride of mine."
The dancing and feasting lasted till dawn the next day.
"I trust you are satisfied with your match?" Zidana asked with a smirk.
I chuckled . "You know the answer to that. Why her? Did you choose her because of how close we were?"
Zidana placed his hands on the marble table between us. "You know sentiment plays no role in this. I had chosen her before your journey began. That is why I sent you with her."
I leaned back on my chair, folding my arms across my chest. "But she was so unruly and impetuous then."
"I believe you visited the lagoon of light."
I nodded my head.
"You saw the eddies of light in the dark waters, yes?"
Again I nodded.
"That is every individual Ayamba, a lot of darkness but eddies of Chauta's light. The closer we grow in him the more his light engulfs the darkness. Your bride is all those characteristics but dulled by the light that continues to grow within her. You were once like her." A smile tugged at his lips.
My eyes darted around his well-lit work room. I was laconic and angry when I first came. It was Zidana's and Nyasha's patience that brought me out of my shell. I glanced up at Zidana. His eyes were trying to hide worry.
"Something is troubling you?"
He nodded. "You know how rigid the council can be. Some feel a match with a girl who has different colour from our skin is an abomination."
"But she is our race. Just that her body does not produce melanin!"
"They know the science of albinism Ayamba, but they are prejudiced." He said calmly.
I winced remembering the uproar when Elder Atusunje had chosen a boy with both white and black skin; vitiligo as science called it. It was Elder Atusunje's stubbornness that led to the boy finally being accepted. Zidana placed his hand on mine which was resting on the table. This pulled me from my thoughts.
"I will fight them on this. We have had elders and elder's wives who were different on the outside. Utawaleza represents diversity. We should reflect those values. We are God's arrow filled with many colours."
I smiled at his recitation of our mantra.
"Do not let this trouble you. In three months you will marry Zimatha."
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