Home of Sword and Soul
"I'm sorry," he blurted out.
Kadira's embarrassment showed in her smile.
"No Omari, I'm sorry. I overreacted. You were just being yourself and I was letting you."
"So you won't kill me?" he said. The boyish smile returned to his face.
Kadira smiled back. "No, I won't kill you. But you have to respect my situation now, Omari. I'm a married woman. We had our time and now it's done."
Omari fell to his knees, touched his forehead on the ground then sprinkled his head with dirt, the sign of obedience among the Malian people.
"Get up!" Kadira shouted. "You're embarrassing!"
"Yes please, get up," Sebe said.
The Kashite priest stood behind her with his ever present acolytes.
"How far are we from Wadantu?" he asked.
Kadira took Nubia's map from her bag and unrolled it.
"At least two more days, maybe three. The map ends there. There is no route going into Wadantu."
Sebe gave her a sly smile. "Don't worry. We will find our way."
They set out late that day, taking their time breaking camp and enjoying a long, lazy meal. Despite their tardy departure they made good time, arriving at the next map point a few hours early. A shallow river flowed before them and they took advantage of the clear water to fill their gourds. They bathed as well, all except Kadira. She watched them all, comparing each man with the image of Nguvu in her mind. Some were fit, others not. As always Omari stood out, his perfectly proportioned body a gift from the creator. But none of them possessed the overpowering physicality of her man waiting for her in Sati-Baa. No one would, for Nguvu was bred to be who he was, one of a few that made up the Mansa's Shield, an elite group of shock warriors. She remembered the first day she saw them, one hundred men forming an ebony line of muscle and steel. They were magnificent.
Omari strolled over to her naked. He never quits, she thought.
"Aren't you going to bath?" he asked innocently.
"No show for you today," she replied. She reached into her bag, took out a pange then tossed it to him.
"Cover up your worm. I'm embarrassed for you."
Omari pouted. "You're mean."
He wrapped the cloth around his waist and stomped away.
The next day the road ended. The expedition stared into a wall of green, a thick tangle of trees, shrubs and grass that gave no hint of entry.
"Wadantu," Kadira said.
"How do we go into there?" Omari asked.
He was answered by the arrival of the Kashites.
"This is where I take over," Sebe said.
His acolytes bowed before him, presenting a small gold trimmed box. Sebe leaned close to the box, whispering to the object reverently. It opened on its own and the priest reached into it and extracting a crystal vial, a small grey chip contained inside. Kadira gasped.
"What is it?" Omari asked.
"A piece of the Creator's Ax," she whispered.
Omari shuddered. "How did he obtain such a thing?"
"It's like Nubia said, the source of Kashite power will ruin them."
Sebe stepped toward the forest wall. The crystal vial glowed. Sebe turned slowly side to side until the vial shined brightly. He raised the vial over his head and shouted.
The forest exploded. Trees shattered then fell away; shrubs ripped from the ground and tumbled to the right and left. Kadira and the others fought to control their mounts until the commotion subsided. When the air cleared a wide ragged road into Wadantu lay before them.
Sebe turned to them. "Follow me."