Home of Sword and Soul
Omari lit the hand cannon fuse.
“Get out of the way!” he shouted in baNdoko. The Ndoko somersaulted away from the Auxites, coming to rest behind him just in time. Omari braced himself as the fuse disappeared. The corridor echoed with the blast; he saw scores of Auxites fall before smoke obscured his view.
Omari turned then stomped away.
“Follow me,” he barked.
They went to the throne room window. Omari uncoiled the rope around his waist, secured it two a column then lowered it to the ground below. He stepped aside and the Ndoko climbed down. They carried their dead brothers on their shoulders as they descended; Bem, Fahru and Reth. Omari’s gaze lingered a moment on Reth’s glazed eyes. At least the bothersome Ndoko would trouble him no longer.
Omari was the last one down. They set off on a run that continued without rest for three days, each one taking his turn to carry their fallen comrade. The Ndoko was silently surprised that Omari kept the pace and did not ask for rest. The truth was that Omari’s stamina was fueled by his anger. His fatigue did not emerge until they were on the Tyrak dhow and well on their way to Kiswala. He slept the entire journey, too tired to be angry. When Dumi awoke him they were moored in Zanabar harbor. He rubbed his eyes clear to a comforting sight. His Ndoko brothers sat in a semi-circle, each with the promised stacks before them. Omari’s stack sat before him as well. Then a surprising thing occurred. His brothers, one by one, added their stack to Omari’s.
“What is this?” Omari said.
“You saved our lives,” Dumi answered. “Besides, we have no use for this.”
Omari struggled between absolute joy and downright suspicion.
“If you didn’t want to be paid then why take the mission?” he asked.
Dumi smiled. “This mission was your test, Riket. Odu needed to know.”
“So you risked your lives to prove that her yoke on me was secure?” Omari’s bitterness flavored his words.
Dumi shook his head. “We are Odu’s children. We serve as she asks, for we know she will let no harm come to us. Now you are her child as well. You will find what you consider a yoke is truly a blessing.”
“How can I consider this a blessing when I cannot live my life my way?” he retorted.
“None of us know true freedom,” Dumi said. “We all are subject to the whims of others.”
Omari was done talking to Dumi. He was wasting his words on a zealot. He looked at the stacks before him and a smile came to his face.
“I thank you, brothers.”
They stood in unison. Omari went to each of them, pressing his chest against theirs.
Their ritual was interrupted by Narsus.
“Good, you said your goodbyes. Omari Ket, get off my ship.”
There was playfulness in her voice that let Omari know her words were made in jest.
“And what of my brothers?” he asked.
“They will stay on board. Odu wishes us to spend some time together. I believe you have a drinking house to build.”
“That and a bit more,” Omari replied.
Omari nodded his goodbyes to the Tyrak crew as he made his way to the gangplank, Narsus by his side. He was about to disembark when another grim thought came to him.
“There’s some business I need to take care of,” he said.
“Sonnai?” Narsus asked.
“Don’t worry about him. He and his men were killed during the initial assault on Bashaba. There are no secrets among the Kiswala.”
“Saves me the trouble,” Omari said.
A clear sky ruled over the harbor city, the air warm and slightly sweet. Omari soon saw the reason why. Makadisha waited resplendent as ever, flanked by the twins Isabis and Iridisi. He could tell by her smile she was genuinely happy to see him. The twins met him halfway down the plank, showering him with hugs and kisses like a long lost brother returned. They backed away when he reached Makadisha. She gave him a subdued peck on his lips.
“You didn’t die,” she said.
“No I didn’t.”
She peeked behind him to the bags of stacks being carried by a Tyrak who placed the bag by their feet.
“It seems you have enough for your drinking house,” she commented.
“And some,” Omari replied.
“So you will stay for a time?” The tone in her voice was expectant.
Omari rubbed his chest wound. A feeling of contentment rushed through him.
“Until Odu calls,” he replied reluctantly.
“That’s all I can ask,” Makadisha said. Their second kiss was more personal.
Omari lifted his bag over his shoulders then took Makadisha’s hand. Together they strolled from the docks and into the wonders of Zanabar.