Home of Sword and Soul
When Kadira reached the village edge a wagon with provisions waited, She managed to harness her horse and pull the wagon to the expedition. The fog wall persisted but immediately faded as she approached. Omari was the first person she saw.
"Kadira!" He galloped toward her, a brilliant smile on his face.
"I assume the baKenja will let us live?"
"Only if we do as we are told," Kadira replied.
She continued riding to the Kashites, ignoring the stare of the others. Her status seemed to have risen among them because of Nubia's summons. Maybe they would stop leering at her and focus on the journey. She hoped so.
Sebe and the others looked in her direction as she approached. The Kashite sat in his throne-like chair flanked by fanning acolytes and the Kashite warriors. Kadira dismounted and approached. The guards did nothing to impede her.
Sebe looked up at her, his arrogant stare replaced with the hint of worry. This unnerved her. He was the leader of the expedition. If he was losing his confidence they might as well go back to Sati-Baa.
"What did the baKenja witch have to say?" he asked. The bitterness was gone from his voice.
"She knows where we are headed," Kadira replied. "Her quarrel was with the Haisetti, not us. She gave me this map. She said it will lead us to Wadantu and keep us away frrom baKenja villages."
She took out the map. Sebe looked at it and waved his hand.
"She gave it to you which means she trusts you. You will lead us through Kenja."
Kadira laughed. "I'm not a pathfinder."
The hard look returned briefly in Sebe's eyes. "You are now. Take your place at the lead of this expedition or we all go home."
Kadira bit back her words then turned to walk away.
"Wait," Sebe called out.
Kadira spun about then folded her arms across her chest. "What?"
"What is that you wear?" he asked.
"What are you talking about?"
Kadira had forgotten the amber necklace. "It's a piece of amber given to me by Nubia."
Sebe's eyes widened then he smiled.
"You may go."
Kadira rode back to the provision wagon. The men were helping themselves to the food, Omari among them.
"Omari!" she called out. Omari looked up, his mouth smeared with honey.
"You pick the worst times for conversation," he snarled.
"Sebe wants me to lead the expedition through Kenja and you're going to help."
Omari choked. "Me?"
"Yes, you. Now get that food fest organized over there and make sure everyone gets equal share. We leave within the hour."
If Omari was good at anything it was following orders. Provisions were distributed and the expedition set off immediately. They journeyed through the verdant savanna, surrounded by large herds of gazelles, wildebeests and other animals of the grasslands. Elegant giraffes nibbled at acacia tips as zebras flitted about like nervous flocks. It was a beautiful land, more beautiful than any Kadira had seen. She realized why the baKenja had now decided to fight for it and themselves.
They camped at one of the areas designated on the map. Kadira and Omari set up their tent near the camp edge, building a large fire with gathered wood. Kadira leaned back on her hands, rolling her head to loosen the tension in her neck. A pair of warm hands grasped her shoulders and began massaging them.
"Thank you, Omari" she said.
"You're welcome," he replied. "You've had an interesting day."
"No more interesting than any of us."
"The fate of this journey is in your hands."
Kadira didn't reply. She was lost in Omari's hands, savoring his experienced touch.
"We can continue this in the tent," he said.
His words killed the mood.
"Get you hands off me," she hissed.
"I was just..."
"Get your damn hands off me!" she yelled.
Kadira shoved him away and pulled her dagger. "Enough of this farce. I'm taking my own tent."
Omari looked puzzled. "What of our agreement?"
"I'm leading the expedition now. I don't need your cover. Touch me like that again and I'll send you to the Cleave."
Kadira gathered her things and stormed to the Kashites.
"I need a tent," she demanded.
The acolytes smirked then gave her a tent. They sent servants with her to help her set up the the monstrosity.
She went inside, spread out her things then sat hard on her blanket, fighting back her tears. She wasn't mad at Omari; she was mad at herself. A few more minutes of his skilled hands and she would have gone into the tent with him. Nguvu deserved better than that. Olea deserved better from her mother. She had to be stronger. She would be.