Home of Sword and Soul
Three days later Omari awoke to gentle kisses on his eyelids. When he finally opened his eyes Makadisha hovered over him, her dazzling smile brighter than any sunshine he’d ever witnessed. She was the only woman who rivaled Kadira in his is opinion. Although Kadira was not as beautiful as Makadisha, her martial talents and sprit made her just as lovely.
“You must leave me today,” she whispered.
“It’s probably best,” Omari replied. “Otherwise I’d die in bed.”
“And what’s wrong with that?”
Omari gently pushed Makadisha away and rolled out of her plush bed. He picked up his clothes from the floor where he dropped them three days ago. He dressed slowly, giving Makadisha the last look he knew she wanted. She in turned continue to walk about nude, returning the favor.
“You said you will quit the Mikijen and open a drinking house,” she said.
“I will,” he replied.
“You said that three years ago,” she frowned.
“And if my last commission had gone as it should, that day would have been today.” Omari gritted his teeth as he remembered the Wadantu fiasco.
“So will this new commission help?”
Omari finished dressing then pulled Makadisha to him and kissed her hard.
“If it does you’ll be the first to know. For now, it’s time to serve.”
Makadisha threw on a thick silk robe then walked out the room at his side.
“You know I love you,” she said.
“And I love you,” he replied reflexively.
“No you don’t. You love yourself. You love the idea of loving me.”
Omari didn’t reply. That was what he didn’t like about Makadisha. She knew him too well. There was nothing he could get past her for they grew up in the streets together. Looking at her it was hard to imagine someone so beautiful had experienced such a hard life. But she wasn’t exactly right. If he did finally fall in love, it would surely be her, especially since Kadira was taken. But then again that could change. There were always other possibilities.
She put her fingers to his lips.
“Don’t say anything you don’t mean, Omari. Go and be safe. We’ll talk more if you return.”
“When I return,” he said.
She kissed his cheek. “Goodbye, Omari.”
Omari looked back at Makadisha as he met his companions. There was something in her eyes that bothered him. It continued to do so as they returned to the dhow.
“That was the most amazing three days of my life!” Sonnai said.
His words broke his musing. “Thank you.”
“A man would do well to be your companion,” Sonnai continued.
“I'm not so sure. Most of those who chose to be my companions are dead,” he said. “I’m not good luck.”
They were about to board the dhow when Sonnai raised his hand.
“Your journey with us is over, Omari. Another dhow will take you to Aux.”
Omari’s stomach tightened. “You didn’t tell me about this.”
Sonnai smiled. “Don’t’ worry. You’ll be in better hands. Take care, my friend. Don’t die.”
Omari grasped Sonnai’s extended hand then pulled him into a hug.
“I don’t plan to. May the Creator keep you close and your sword never breaks.”
He heard commotion on the deck and looked up. The Ndoko ambled across the deck single file, the other crew members giving them a wide berth. They walked down to the gangplank and directly to Omari, ignoring Sonnai.
“Did you have…fun, Riket?” Dumi asked.
“Yes,” Omari replied.
“Good. We must serve the Odu now. Come.”
Dumi continued past him. Reth tossed him his gear, a scowl on his face.
“Get behind me,” he said.
Omari did as he was told. The respite was officially done. In his absence his rank had been decided; he was third, ranked behind Reth. Dumi was a smart leader. Omari’s performance in the game had earned him second status but ranking him such would cause a challenge from Reth that could only be decided by the death of one of them. Dumi needed every one for the task ahead; he couldn't afford to lose anyone yet. Besides, Omari had not been blooded with them. Sure, he was Pumo’s second and his reputation was undeniable, but reputation did not supersede experience. Omari didn't protest the decision. If he survived the mission his association with the Ndoko would be done. He’d collect his pay and be on his way.
Curious and fearful stares followed them across the harbor to a large dhow docked a good distance from the other craft. Omari’s eyes widened in wonder. There was very little in Duniyaa the traveling mercenary had not seen or experienced, but what lay before him was one. The Tyrak war galley loomed over the nearby dhows, a terrible and beautiful craft. He knew the Kiswala traded with the mysterious guardians of the Cleave, but as far as he knew their ships never ventured away from their martial vigil. His curious eyes swept across every detail, the almost organic design of the dhow, the way it drifted on the waves as if it lived, as if the bones and hide of the indigo joka from which it was constructed would give it live. Sharp bolt tips from the loaded onagers protruded over the deck edge. Tyrak baharia inspected the sails and maintained the decks, oblivious to the file of Ndoko approaching their mooring. They were black skinned, powerfully built men and women, their heads bare and bald. Intricate ivory tattoos covered their heads instead. Both men and women wore no clothing above the waist, their lower bodies covered by short cloth which stopped short of their knees, revealing their muscle corded legs. What stood out most were their wide chests and backs. These people were swimmers, a folk who though graceful and sure on land obviously spent much, if not most of their time in the cold waters of their homeland. Maybe the other stories were true as well, Omari thought. He hoped he wouldn’t find out.
A female Tyrak broke away from the others and approached them, her only distinguishing feature a small medallion hanging by a leather cord around her neck. She walked directly to Dumi
“Our cargo has arrived,’ she said.
She clasped Dumi’s bicep in traditional Ndoko greeting to outsiders and he grasped hers as well. Omari wasn't sure, but he thought he saw the Ndoko smile. That would be two miracles in one day.
“It’s been a long time, Narsus,” he said.
“It has,” she replied. “Odu had kept you well, I see?”
“As she has you,” Dumi replied.
Narsus looked from Dumi to Omari. Omari flashed his smile and Narsus’s face became stern. Her eyes narrowed as the look of recognition came to her face. Dumi nodded to her, giving her permission to speak to him.
She advanced on him quickly.
“Omari Ket,” she said. “Or should I call you Riket?”
“It is Riket among my brothers,” he replied.
“You are new to Odu’s embrace,” she said. “We who serve her are closer than most. Dumi trust you. Do not let them down as you did Pumo. If you do, you will answer to me.”
Omari felt her threat in his bones. He was not a man easily intimidated but the stories he’d heard of the Tyrak gave him pause.
“I have no intentions of letting down anyone,” Omari replied. “Dumi knows this.”
Narsus’s eyes lingered on his face for a moment then went to his chest. She grabbed his shirt then opened it, revealing the faint scar. Her touch was rough like sand.
“Odu had marked you,” she said with a grin. “My mind is at ease now. You will serve her well. You have no choice.”