Return of the Koghi

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    • Return of the Koghi


      The sun was about to set in the dry woodlands. The harmattan wind was blowing, carrying with it clouds of sand and dust from the desert that gave the sky an orange tint. The drought and the dust had made the trees and the grass turn yellow and red. Some trees who had already lost all their leaves were now covered in bright scarlet flowers. It was as if a very hot autumn had settled in the Kweni country.

      Chief Zamblé bi Gowa was sitting in front of the house where he slept, in the wide yard among his other houses and granaries. It had been a hard day's work in the yam field, working with the hoe. He was not so young anymore, his back was aching. Washing with cold water from his big clay watertank had made him some good. He was there, watching the birds flying here and there in the nearby trees. In front of him, the women went by in long ranks, carrying big buckets and jars of water on their head. They were going back and forth from the nearby pond to fill the watertanks and back to the pond. The dark skin of their bare chests, shoulders and arms was glistening from the spilled water, while their damp long skirts stuck to their thighs.

      A big noise was heard from behind the trees. It grew louder, into the voices of many men, with the bellowing of beasts and the whining of horses. Young men came running to the chief, while the women deposited their jars on the ground and went in excitement in the direction from where the noise was coming, children following them, scaring dogs and chicken away. The whole village resounded with one echo, one chant : « Kooooghi ! Kooooghi ! Kooooghi w'o da ! Kooooghi w'o da ! »

      The local griot, Loru bi Golu, came hurriedly, carrying his ceremonial rattle-staff, and took his seat at the right of his chief. The chief, in the meanwhile, had gotten up and changed clothes in his house. The arrival of their old allies was not a suprise : a swift mounted messenger had already come several days before to warn of their arrival. Now sitting on his ceremonial stool in his most colourful robe and his traditional red hat, chief Zamblé waited for the newcomers.

      As there was no obvious large avenue in the village leading to his house, the war troop had to ride around several village houses before getting there. The riders, noblemen from the North carrying the red and gold banner of the King of Kings, dismounted nearby, leaving their horses in the shade.

      Their leader came mounted on a fierce monoceros, a terrific beast with a huge, heavy horn like a tree trunk on its nose, sustained only by the beast's powerful neck. The animal was covered under a quilted pelt reinforced by leather patches and iron plates nailed directly into his powerful body, criss-crossed by strings of talismans and amulets, including worn out parchment covered in script. Sitting astride the monster's hunched back was a fierce-looking warchief, a kêlêtigi, carrying long iron swords on his side, as well as the beautifully carved bow that was the mark of his rank and status.

      The leader was helped down by an aide who carried a small ladder for him. The monoceros was tied to a large tree, just like the three huge burden beasts, big slumbering mammals with a very thick brown hide and a disproprotionately small head compared to their big size and large feet. The animals were guarded by a few warriors while the children were watching and singing around them, with the women and a growing crowd of curious villagers standing behind and around, looking either afraid or wondered, chatting excitedly among each other and clapping their hands in joy.

      The warchief came forth, surrounded by his escort, all black men from the North. Chief Zamblé watched their handsome, proud faces. True Northerners, with their long, thin noses, their small, beautifully narrow eyes, their square chins, their thick beards. He recognized some of the traditional scarifications on their cheeks. One was of them was obviously a Nyakaran. That thought made him smile – at least, he'd have some fun. The men were sweating heavily under their quilted armours, turbans and iron helmets, covered in dust. The warleader, still standing there, was greeting him. Fortunately, chief Zamblé knew enough Koghian to understand what was going on.

      GHAÂAÂAÂARN ! — The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young
      First T9A player in West Africa

      The post was edited 2 times, last by Ghiznuk ().

    • Thus spoke the warleader :

      « I salute you, elder, you who are the father of this land and of all those who inhabit it – »

      Chief Zamblé recognized here the direct style of the young Koghi officers. Always in a hurry to get business done. There was the rustling sound of a rattle. Fitfully, Golu had raised his staff to interrupt.

      « Mighty stranger, I beg your forgiveness and your blessings, my desire is not to cross you. I am Loru bi Golu, the zrandorzanof this land, he who in your language is called a djeli.The reason why I am speaking is because my duty in front of our ancestors and of the spirits of the land that bears us is to inform you that our tradition requires our honoured guests to be seated before the greetings may commence. »

      « Djeli, we respect and honour your traditions – that is the law and custom of the land. We will do as you say. »

      The warleader was seated on a stool, while his retinue sat cross-legged on mats that had been disposed around it. It was of course a privilege for the warleader to sit on a stool, on the same level as the local ruler. Noone wished to frustrate an envoy of the King of Kings.

      Young women, their forehead, wrists and bare chest adorned with jewels made of cauri shells and pottery beads, their faces and arms painted in white clay, came in a file, each carrying a jar of fresh, cold water. Every one of them kneeled down before a warrior, lowering their faces while holding the water up to the men. They remained there, kneeling, until the last of the warriors had drunk his fill, then marched away.

      Bolu then stood, looking grand in his blue robe, his staff held aloft.

      « The greetings may now commence. »

      « Thank you djeli. My name is Kanta Isaka Abubaker, a loyal farariya of our Father, the King of Kings, who rules in Mandiani. Let me firstly thank your elder, the father of this land of and of all those who inhabit it, for letting us cross safely through your realm and welcoming us here. We have ridden many days to come here, and not all the folks we met on our road were as fair as yours. Some of our companions stayed on the road, their soul now gone to heaven. We came to you to bring to you the greetings and blessings of our father, the King of Kings, may his name and his soul be blessed a thousand times and for as long as the sun rises over Taphria. He asked me to enquire about your health and that of all your people. He also asked to bring you gifts, for you and your people, as a sign of his providing bounty. »

      Here, Bolu turned his back to the warleader to face his chief. He repeated in his own language the words that had just been pronounced by Kanta. The chief said in his language something that the warleader could not understand. The griot turned back to face the warleader.

      « Honoured and handsome stranger, may your enemies ever run away from you and the savannah open before you ! This is our diili, the elder of this village, who was appointed to rule us by the ancestors of this land, the land of Kulufla in the realm of the Kweni tribe. His name is Zamblé bi Gowa. The elder asks me to greet you and welcome you. The alliance between our people and yours is ancient. Indeed, know that the Kweni once occupied the lands which your people occupies today after we left it for greener countries. This means that, according to our songs, your people, the Koghile of Mandiani, are our little brothers. It is thus not as vassals, but as elder brothers, that we open for you our village and our land. Stay here as long as you wish. The elder, our father, has heard your enquiry and wishes me to inform of his good health as well as that of his people. He would also like to enquire about the good health of our Father, the King of Kings – may his name be blessed and honoured for ever –, give thanks for all the gifts he's sent us, and know more about your journey and what you saw on the way. »

      Kanta thought that the griot might have added a few things which the elder hadn't actually said. Then he spoke again :

      « Djeli, tell this to the elder :
      We thank you again, elder. Let it be known that our Father, the King of Kings, is in an excellent health as always and ever, despite the many blows that his enemies attempt to inflict him, both physically and mystically. He sent us with gifts of cotton cloth and tobacco from the Koghi lands, as well as a few metal wares crafted by the men of the North from beyond the Great Desert. These goods have crossed many great dangers to reach you, they are very precious.
      – Elder, let it be known that our Father, the King of Kings – truly scary is his wrath – has embarked on a vast campaign to free the lands that lie between here and his from the mênêdunlalu, the Anteaters that regularly attack our caravans. Indeed, having noticed that the gold was flowing scarce into his cities, it is his greatest concern that the bounty of the Southern lands flow freely to his markets and that the merchants under his ever watchful protection be allowed to walk and ride unhindered through all the lands under his guard, for the greatest wealth of all those who bow before him.
      This is why our detachment was sent here, to call forth his vassals and allies to join his splendid army, as well as to patrol the road to your land and chase any of these non-beings back to their burrowing dwellings. However, more efforts will be needed to break the walls of their anthill fortresses and rid of their plague the face of the earth. All arms are thus welcome in this holiest of ventures. »

      The griot translated back for the elder, who spoke, before allowing the griot to turn again.

      « The elder has heard you and accepts these gifts with many thanks. He is glad to know that the route to the North is re-opened ; truly, many suns have passed since the last merchant came here.
      – Brave warleader, you have to know however that here too, the flow of gold is running low from the South. A new threat has emerged in the deep, dark forests that lie yonder. Not the ancient lizards from the Age of Dawn, that have always been there and that we know how to avoid, but something more sinister. The people talk of cruel slavers, dæmons and djinns, dead that rise from the grave and slithering, poisonous things in the damp, dark places, and of a black tower covered with the bones of sacrificed victims. They too mine for gold, it is said they sell it to the foreigners who come from over the sea, whose shore lies beyond the forest. Really, we beg our Father, the King of Kings, he whose armies cover all the land, to send his best scouts and spies to that place to investigate and find the best way to counter that new menace.
      As a result, we have but few things to offer you in exchange of the gifts you brought with you. However, the women have been talking of a large beast that has recently appeared in the lowlands around the stream where they wash our clothes ; it gave them quite a scare indeed ! I am sure that our Father, the King of Kings, he who distributes food aplenty, will be pleased to add that beast to his army, for it to carry his warriors into battle.
      The elder has also heard your request and the invitation to join our Father, the King of Kings, in battle. He will gladly send word to the surrounding villages, clans and tribes to muster as many men as can be for this great endeavour. »
      GHAÂAÂAÂARN ! — The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young
      First T9A player in West Africa

      The post was edited 3 times, last by Ghiznuk ().

    • The griot now paused, and put on an intriguing smile on his face :
      « Great Warrior, however, the elder asked me to ask you, since when are monkeys allowed to fight in the greatest army of men ? »

      This sentence was pronounced pointing at the young man sitting directly on the right of Kanta. The short, dark one with the big facial scars. Kanta frowned. He didn't like that sudden attention to a notorious rival of his, a man of prince Buruma Don Foli, the main competitor to the designated heir to the throne of Koghi.

      Meanwhile, the young soldier raised his hand to speak, looking dead serious.

      « Tcheliwe, I thank you for this question. My name is Yiêh Katchênê Tanhekubleman, I come from the realm of Nyakara where the good
      king Soliyé Yefungwonyigi Funyigé, a loyal subject of the Koghi, chose me to serve in the army of our Father, the King of Kings – praised be his judgement. I would like to ask my commander and elder brother,farariya Kanta Abubaker, his forgiveness for interrupting this discussion, but he will surely agree that this question would be best answered by myself, since it is my presence here that is put into question.
      – My answer to the elder is this : why couldn't monkeys serve in the army of our Father, the King of Kings, since even low dogs such as the Kweni are also deemed fit for his service ? »

      The elder, then burst out laughing and, now expressed himself in a rather broken Koghian, without the mediation of the griot :

      « That'd make you a slave of dogs then, Nyakaratché ! I don't envy you at all ! But your master is good ! You are in good hands. Women ! Send some good beer to this slave of mine ! Tonight he shall dine with me in my compound ! I wouldn't want him to go back to his homeland and say that he was ill-received by the Kweni ! Zrandorzan ! I declare this meeting is over. Go have a rest now, we will talk more and celebrate tomorrow. »

      Thanks and blessings were again exchanged for some time. It was getting really dark now, and the circle of curious villagers grew
      thinner, as each of them went about their evening activities. The Koghians were guided to the compound that had been cleared for them.
      They hadn't got any real rest nor any good food and clear water for weeks now. That first night in Kulufla was very promising.

      (to be followed)
      GHAÂAÂAÂARN ! — The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young
      First T9A player in West Africa
    • Lovely attention to detail, and very well executed formalities, down to various epithets for the King of Kings, the griot mediator (and how interpreters may brush up on the words of their masters), procedures following local customs in detail and of course the "monkey" business, good one!

      What made it all come extra alive was the capturing of local life, including a chief toiling in the earth, and the hints at a wider, rich world of many different tribes, and of traders bearing their wares for long distances through perils aplenty. The attention to detail makes it more than much of fantasy fiction is; this is not just modern-feeling characters with powers and flashy swords pasted onto a streamlined past age with monsters and magic, but actually breathing an air of earthy reality from bygone times, filled with hands-on labour, strong traditions, vassals, lieges and dangerous beasts roaming close by the settlements of people. Also, clever take with elder brothers, it brings this well-known traditional feature of life in West Africa/Taphria into sight and adds yet another layer to the story's fleshing out of the lands under Koghi rule.

      I'm biased because this is just the kind of detailed worldbuilding, lifelike stuff I like to see in stories, but it's great so far! Now go get that beast. Looking forward to the next instalment!

      The post was edited 3 times, last by Karak Norn Clansman ().

    • Nothing special, just a description of how life is here, really ;) with just the right sprinkling of fantasy elements.
      And some stuff stolen from my grandfather's history books (you know, the kind of content that only got published in the 1970s and never since).

      I wanted to give a slow rythm, as slow as daily life in the village, when you come to visit the cocoa fields but actually have to go through a whole afternoon of formalities, drinking, eating, greeting people, and generally sitting awkwardly while various random people come to shake your hand, offer you food/acohol/soon-to-be-dead chickens, or just sit with you for half an hour to just look at you while chatting with each other in their own language and getting drunk, with you just being there, smiling and nodding (and getting drunk), for a few hours, surrounded by a swarm of kids and their dogs…
      … then washing, sleeping and fighting some mosquitoes and scorpions in the dark……before being allowed to do the actual business that you came for only on the next day ! (provided you are lucky enough that the next day is not some form of local « shabbat » or market day).

      ——> Which means — don't be too impatient to get that beast ! There will be some feasting, story-telling and a religious debate before we actually get there :D
      GHAÂAÂAÂARN ! — The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young
      First T9A player in West Africa

      The post was edited 2 times, last by Ghiznuk ().

    • Stephen King wrote in his On writing: A Memoir of the Craft that writing is telephaty. Writer delivers their vision and thoughts to the readers head trough the text. (Not a direct quote but as I recall it)

      That's exactly what happened here. :)
      All things wargaming. My super entertaining hobby blog where anything wargaming related can happen.

      "I heard a television interviewer once suggest that the use of dice made battlegaming on par with Snakes and Ladders and such like games of change. Well, he was being just stupid, or trying to take a rise out of his guest. It is in fact the imponderable which does give reality to 'Battle' and, as we shall see, does cause the players to make proper allowance for the unlikely or even seemingly impossible, which, as we read, did happen surprisingly frequently in the annals of war."
      -Charles Grant
    • You're welcome. :)

      Your insight to African myths and cultures is perfect for fantasy stories.
      All things wargaming. My super entertaining hobby blog where anything wargaming related can happen.

      "I heard a television interviewer once suggest that the use of dice made battlegaming on par with Snakes and Ladders and such like games of change. Well, he was being just stupid, or trying to take a rise out of his guest. It is in fact the imponderable which does give reality to 'Battle' and, as we shall see, does cause the players to make proper allowance for the unlikely or even seemingly impossible, which, as we read, did happen surprisingly frequently in the annals of war."
      -Charles Grant