Home of Sword and Soul
The next morning they crossed the Joliba River into Kenja. The Haisetti lead them for they were very familiar with the country. The peaceful villages that inhabited the savanna grasslands were frequent victims of Haisetti slave raids. Kadira and Omari rode close to the center of the group, close to the Kashites. She smirked at the priest and his entourage, the group obviously not experienced with the rigors of the open road. They resembled more a procession that an expedition with their gaudy headdresses, ceremonial horns and drums and dozens of servants carrying various containers and chests filled with all types of talisman and other powerful items. A good sorcerer would have whittled her list down to a few effective items then relied on the goodness of other mages of the destination for whatever extra needs. But then again they were travelling to Watandu, a place as mysterious as the Cleave but for different reason. The Cleave was a result of the Creator's anger toward buKhangans, whereas Watandu was the result of His Wife's love and sympathy. Both were forbidden; what the Kashite priest planned to do could have bad results for an opposite reason.
A fog rose before them as they ventured further into Kenja, a thick moist cloud that eventually enveloped them and clung to their garments. The sudden change in conditions unnerved Kadira but the others seemed not to notice.
"This is strange," she commented.
"What do you mean?" Omari asked.
"The fog. It's appeared suddenly."
Omari shrugged. "It's almost rainy season."
Cries rose from up ahead. Kadira spurred her horse forward, galloping toward the source with Omari close behind. When they reached the front of the caravan a wall of fog greeted them. The Haisetti were dead to a man, each impaled by an arrow to the throat. The others looked about fearfully, shields raised, swords drawn and lances held ready. The Kashites arrived soon afterwards. Sebe arrived in his elaborate chariot flanked by Auxite horsemen, their compound bows loaded. His face was grim.
"What is going here?" he fumed. "Are bandits roaming Kenja now?"
The fog faded quickly after Sebe's words. At first Kadira thought the sorcerer willed it away, but his expression was as perplexed as hers. The mist gave way to a ring of warrior surrounding them, armed men garbed in a variety of clothing and brandishing a myriad of weapons from swords to throwing irons. They were obviously a militia, a fact that made them no less dangerous despite their irregular appearance.
The men parted and a woman emerged from their ranks. She wore a grey pange about her hips, her upper body bare with the exception of a swath of cloth covering her breasts. Her head was bare of hair; she walked calmly to them carrying a massive bow, the arrows bouncing inside her hip quiver. She scanned their party, but her eyes lingered on Kadira.
"Dogon witch!" Sebe shouted. He punched his hand at her and the Auxites fired their arrows. The woman waved her bow, knocking the arrows aside. Just as quickly she loaded her bow with two arrows and fired. The Auxites jerked then fell from their mounts, their necks skewered by her arrows. Kadira was very impressed.
"That's the woman I told you about," Omari whispered.
"What woman?" Kadira replied.
"The woman I said was the only person who could match you with a bow. Nubia."
Sebe opened his mouth then his eyes went wide. He clutched at his throat as he struggled to breath. Kadira looked at Nubia. The woman's right hand was extended, her fingers gripped tight.
"Apparently the bow is not the only thing she is good at," she said.
Nubia halted before them.
"Your mouth will get you killed sooner than later, Kashite bastard," she said. She looked at Kadira.
"You will come with me and explain why you have trespassed. The others will stay here."
Kadira's stomach churned. "Nana, I am just a hired sword. I have no idea..."
"You ride with this group with no idea of its purpose?"
Kadira lowered her eyes. "No."
Nubia smirked. "Then you will come with me or you will all die now."
"Go with her already!" Omari urged.
Kadira nodded. Nubia turned her back then sauntered away. Sebe let out a gasp; apparently he could breath again. Though he glared at Nubia, he made no other gestures.
"Go on then," Sebe said to Kadira. "I hope you are a better diplomat than you are a companion."
Kadira followed Nubia into the rising wall of mist, hoping that she would live out the day.