Short Stories, Tale Africa

Kitara’s Shield (1)

By Samuel Sebbowa Bunnya, Uganda

Kunda could not help smiling as he watched from the shadows. He was not getting any younger, but he knew that his land would be in the safest hands when the time came. As king of Kitara, he had served long and hard. Kunda had fulfilled the dreams of his great father Mwenda. He had taken Kitara to new heights and faced greater and new threats than any of his ancestors had dreamed. He had raided faraway lands and conquered countless people. He had served as the King of the Kitara with one heart.

Watching his son grow was another joy to him. Kaikuzi was no ordinary lad. Among his brothers and sisters he was the greatest hunter, fighter and artist. He had a great love for the people. He was a true embodiment of all Kunda’s hopes, desires and ambitions just as Kunda had been his father’s dream. Kunda’s greatest hope was that his son would protect the people from the great threat of the white skinned man. If Kaikuzi did that, Kitara would be safe for generations.

Kunda loved his family but loved his kingdom more. His people were the blessed of the great gods of the sky. It was the only reason that he refused to welcome the strange white man and his customs. It was not going to change and never would.

There was a loud gasp from the watching crowd, which was followed with a heavy grunt. Kunda turned to watch the duel of warriors that was happening in the warrior’s kraal. He could not help the small smile that played on his lips as he looked down at the two warriors of Kitara.

His son, Kaikuzi, stood tall with only a thin wooden shaft in his hands. He was breathing heavily as he kept a small distance between himself and his opponent. Kunda could clearly see the sweat beads on his son’s forehead. The young man was more a warrior than Kunda had been at his age.

His opponent was Kunda’s closest friend and confidant, the great general of the land, Mukuzi. The tall massive man held his two clobbering clubs and prepared to strike at the younger man. The wrinkles on his face betrayed the worry that he was about to be defeated by the prince, much to Kunda’s pleasure.

You trained the boy well, Kunda thought just as Mukuzi lunged at Kaikuzi.

Kunda winced as Kaikuzi was driven back by the constant clobbering of Mukuzi’s clubs. Kunda watched on as time passed by. He was a proud father. The young man in the distance was holding his own against the greatest warrior in the land. Kaikuzi ducked, jumped and blocked every blow that Mukuzi threw at him. His lean sinewy body was slippery with sweat as he grappled with the massive broad shouldered general of his father’s armies. The bald headed general was relentless as he attacked the smaller man. But if Kunda knew anything about his son, it was that Kaikuzi was cunning in his ways.

The gathered crowd of onlookers in the warriors’ kraal watched with interest as the prince and general went toe to toe. Even the queen, Nambi, was present with their two daughters and youngest son. They were all eager to see the prince and heir of Kitara prove his mettle against the greatest warrior in the kingdom.

Kunda smiled as he watched Mukuzi start to lower his guard. Mukuzi was an older man. He had seen at the very least forty eight summers. He was no longer the strong and capable man who could fight for a whole week without rest. The fact that the land had been at peace with its neighbours also meant he was not as battle hardened as before.

Kaikuzi on the other hand was barely twenty. He was young and full of energy. He was quick and had more stamina. In time the prince was going to become a greater man than the warrior he faced and Kunda himself.

“Come on Kaiku, finish him,” Kunda whispered to the air.

There was a loud roar from the gathered crowd as Mukuzi fell to the ground with Kaikuzi on top of him. Kunda roared with laughter as the shock on his friend’s face was evident for all to see. There were whispers of shock among the cheering crowds. Kunda could tell that many of the traditionalist warriors were worried. Such a victory for youthful exuberance could mean the end of the old guard. Kunda knew many among his council did not want to see the old replaced by the new.

Kunda watched as his wife Nambi cheered loudly and walked forward towards her son. The crowds parted to let the old queen through. Her thick braided grey hair that was covered by a white head wrap was the only thing that showed her true age. She was tall and beautiful with her slanting dark almond shaped eyes. Her thin straight nose was well placed above her supple red lips. Nambi was a true daughter of the Nalubaale tribe of Kitara.

Nambi reached Kaikuzi and placed a small kiss on his forehead as she smiled. Kaikuzi took it well and shouted with joy. All those round him shouted with joy round him as well. The young prince wiped the sweat from his brow as he soaked in the adulation from his people. Kunda watched on the shadows knowing that it was time to give his son some of the responsibilities of being king.

“You must be a proud father.”

Kunda turned to look at his wife’s brother. He did not like the man. Lumbe was a tall dark and fierce looking man. He seemed to always have a scowl on his face just like his wife Mbabazi. Kunda had heard the rumours amongst the courtiers. Many of them believed that the two were always plotting for more power in the kingdom.

“Your majesty.”

“Yes brother,” Kunda said on a sigh.

“You must be a proud father,” Lumbe said once again.

“I heard you the first time,” Kunda said.

He hated being around Lumbe. Something in his heart told him that Lumbe was plotting to take power. Even though Kaikuzi was of Lumbe’s blood, Lumbe seemed to not like the boy. Lumbe was one of the few councillors with a heart of stone. He was also the only council man advocating for the white man to be welcomed into the borders of Kitara.

“I wonder if he could defeat Ndovu of Oul kingdom,” Lumbe thought out loud.

Kunda scoffed. As far as he knew the Oul kingdom was a small kingdom that had tarnished its name by giving itself over to the white man. Its king was just a puppet and its greatest warrior Ndovu was nothing compared to the weakest Kitara warrior. There systems were broken and they could no longer rival Kitara for dominance of the land. Only the Xoza people of the southern belts could be considered on par with Kitara.

Together with the Zunda and Xoza, Kitara was the only kingdom not to fall for the lies of the white man. Kunda’s spies had informed him of the false words of friendship offered by the white man. Many of his spies had infiltrated the white man’s lands as people from other lands and reported back home. They told him of all the advancements, resources and wars that the white man had.

Yet they do not have access to our wealth.

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