Born of Silence

by Mazuba Mwiinga

Chapter 3

In the southern far side of Tonga land, the land was high, rocky and covered by bushes and tall trees. One would barely see the next village on the highland slope. There were two high and flat-peaked lands. One was Sikabenga the other one was Nampeyo. Between them was a stream with clear fresh water. It flowed from the eastern hills of Nadongo down to the Mopani shrubs of Makamba meandering silently to the highland of Nampeyo on its way to Sikabenga down to join the mother Magoye river in the far west.
At the eastern foot of Nampeyo highland, there was a famous ancestral forest called Chisoboyo. The forest had a lot of legendry stories to tell. Just like the plateau great seer, it was also a forest with dreaded spell. It had planted estrangements to both Sikabenga and Nampeyo villagers.
A word used to go round the villages that this forest harbored an old woman with half parts of a human being; one leg, one eye, one ear, one arm and one buttock, so was one thread of hair. But it was viciously told that she could run as fast as wind. This woman it was rumored, would kidnap men and marry them; children were her daughters and sons; women her worst enemies. She would resent the sight of any woman, so were the stories about her; saying that if captured she would kill them instantly and feed on their remains. She was said to be keeping up at the heart of the forest in a rock-cave just at the bottom of the highland. Astoundingly enough, no one had ever claimed having seen her or survived her attacks. Her name was Kaulukomwe – one legged.
This story was common among youngsters. Its narration was sometimes more akin to fable stories than to a true composition of what was there. To village elders of the highland, it was a legend they too found as children. Their parents in threatening them to stop moving out at night, they would scare them that Kaulukomwe one day will find them and take them hostage. To their theoretical honesty, they too produced another novelty narration in defense.
They said that since time immemorial, the forest was untouched because it harbored a lot of vicious wild animals. When the Tongas were moving from east to west in search of greener pastures for their animals, so was space for cultivation, they were clearing forests and bushes on the way. As they cleared out trees, animals were fleeing into the interior of the forest. When they came to this forest, Chisoboyo, which happened to be the only one left, they couldn’t dare clear it for it was a den of ruthless animals. So they had to skirt round it as they went further clearing shrubs.
This explanation was quite comprehensible, for Chisoboyo was the highlanders’ butchery. The headman would call for a meeting once a year at which he told his people the date for burning the forest so that hunting could resume. This usually happened during the dry hot season when villagers were off cultivation duties. At this time villagers from Sikabenga, Nadongo in the east and around Kakuni Mission would come to bate their luck on the hunting festival. Only the dare devils dared to take part in this hunting sport. Deaths occurred as people would find themselves in jaws of man-eating beasts. But as rain season drew near, the hunting spree would be called off until the following year.

* * *

Ruling Nampeyo was a tall dark young man in his early thirties. His name was Chinkuli. As a youth of around nineteen, he had shown the highlanders about what bravery and cleverness meant. He came as a stranger in Nampeyo some years past from the land he had just called ‘beyond the highlands’. He asked refuge as a casual worker at the Headman’s palace without any suspicions from any villager. The headman then, Nampeyo just as the place was called, had only six daughters and no sons. A lion killed the only son he had during the usual hunting sports in Chisoboyo forest. It was about seven years past. Chinkuli’s honest and dedication to work had earned his stay in the Palace such that within a few years, he became free and comfortable. Villagers gradually started to forget that he was a worker and began to regard him as the headman’s only son. Even his real name, was forgotten for his new name Chinkuli, given to him by the headman took root in the villagers.
At the time of early days in Nampeyo, Chinkuli did a wonder the highlanders never forgot to note in their evening fire place stories. During the Chisoboyo hunting extravaganza, a Lion challenged him. For two weeks he slept up a tree in the forest trying to wrestle his life out of danger of the Lion which was waiting impatiently down under the tree. Back in the village, headman Nampeyo was very sad and ailing with age. No one was able to gather enough courage to go for him in the forest. Even the best hunters in the village couldn’t take that risk.
In the forest, Chinkuli tricked the man-eater. When he saw that it started to doze, he dropped a bunch of twigs on its back. Frightened the Lion sprung up and trotted for its life. Chinkuli hurriedly jumped down the tree and showed a pair of clean feet to the way leading home. But the beast had nit gone very far. It just scampered for a few meters in the opposite direction and stopped, looking back. Then it saw him running away in rays of dust. Without second thoughts, it gave chase hungrily.
Looking over his shoulders, Chinkuli saw it trot in a cloud of merciless dust towards him. He took a diversion to the south and climbed a rocky hill. He soldiered hard up the hill until he reached its flat peak. Feeling safe up there, he relaxed; but disgustingly he saw the beast coming up the hill too; its tongue jerking in and out of its mouth. He stood almost irresolutely, his brain squeaking painfully as if someone had hit him with a blunt metal on his head. He watched it come steadily with snores of anger and hunger, displaying its long and sharp canines. He was hopeless and scared. Standing akimbo, peering at it, he felt as though he was already cracked to pebbles with those sharp chisels. His head was blackened out.
Standing in a dilemma, he felt a piercing feeling run sharply across his spine up his backbone. He heaved strangely and some bits of small stones rolled down the slope. He instantly put down his spear and looked around. Something came into his mind. He ran round the peak trying to track out something. He then saw a boulder at the far end of the peak. He ran to it and tried to remove it; but not even a slight crack formed at its base. It was as if the creator had put roots to it.
Hastily he went for his spear. The lion was by then stalking up the hill. Very soon it would have been up there. Chinkuli dug round the rock, brought a smaller stone and used the spear as lever and the small stone acting as pivot; and applied all his power pressing the handle of the spear. To his anger and worry, the long stick broke unceremoniously. Fuming with fear he used the short piece left, this time using the ground as a pivot and pulling up the handle of the spear, he managed to slot out the rock from its base. The beast’s snares were heard from a short distance and he realized it was very near the top.
Carefully he rolled the boulder of rock to the other side of the hill peak. Reaching the position direct with the climbing lion he stopped. Down the slope, only about three meters away, the beast called a halt as it hauled and roared loudly; its roar echoing out the whole forest and bounced to village Nampeyo where it inflicted a deathly pain into the headman, who lost hope for his beloved worker.
Soon after jubilating, the lion crawled forward. As it opened its big jaws to roar again, Chinkuli let the boulder go down. It rolled down as it gathered no moss and with a thunderous crash, it smashed its jaws, cracking the sharp and long teeth; dislocating the jaws in bigger than mouth opening; bigger enough for the boulder to get stack in the mouth.
Unbalanced, the lion went down as the boulder exerted force on it and breathed its last at the foot of the hill. Chinkuli took his broken spear and reluctantly descended down the hill. That was his thirteenth day in the bush. When he reached the foot of the hill he took a sizeable stone and smashed its head to make sure it was no longer alive. He skinned the animal and when sunset covered the highland, he climbed the hill and spent a night on the peak of the hill and lay on his back with exhaustion little did he realize that sleep was actually calling him.
While sleeping, he saw a blurred figure of a person he presumed to be the famous seer he had seen long before he came to Nampeyo. The old man sat beside him and told him and said:
“Your wife, do you still recall her?”
“Yes”, Chinkuli replied. “Namweemba; yes I still recall her”.
“Did you have a child with her?”
“No”, Chinkuli answered.
“But she is now pregnant”.
“What! That’s the greatest news I have ever heard. At last we have a child”, Chinkuli exclaimed.
“Sorry son, it’s not your child”.
“What do you mean it’s not my child?” Chinkuli asked puzzled.
“I mean just that my son. Your father has done it. Very soon she will have a baby girl; you will divorce your sister and marry your daughter. Your son will give your daughter a child and you will kill your son. But strangers will suffer for the death of your son and you will Scot-freely go off the murder case”.
“I can’t understand all this”.
“So don’t bother yourself trying to understand them my son. Your master is at the end of his life. He has no sons and you are the only alternative for the throne. Your courage of killing a lion will bring you honor. But you will have to be careful lest you fall”.
“Old man; what is all this; my father marrying my wife?
“You have no wife. She is carrying your father’s child”.
“But why am I here? Am suffering and missing my home. I want to inherit my father’s riches. I am the first born.”
“Those are not riches my son. Real riches are yet to come. Soon you will have….”
“Stop just there. You don’t have to argue with someone you can’t see. The sun will be up soon; wake up and go home. Everyone is waiting to receive you”.
Chinkuli sprang from the ground and looked around. He only felt the silent atmosphere of the forest. Birds were singing their morning tunes welcoming another day. He didn’t know he slept that long. Beside him was an ancient stool and cold embers of fire. ‘I never came with a stool. Neither I did I make fire last night’, he thought and stood up, stretching himself in the process. He looked around again and it was all silent and cool. He took the lion’s skin and descended down the hill and reluctantly walked home, his head turning all over the place thinking that he may see someone walking around.
He reached the Palace at that time Lizards spread their legs with their bellies stack on walls enjoying the cozy rays of heat from the Sun. The lion’s skin was placed carelessly on his right shoulder; a piece of a broken spear held loosely in his left palm. He was staggering as he walked up the royal village, his face glittering with thick smelly sweat.
Headman Nampeyo’s eldest daughter Tazyimanikubota was the first one to see him as he clambered up, calculating his steps lest he hit something that might have brought him closer to the ground. She stood gazing at him. ‘Could he be the one?’ She then ran to her father and made him aware of a figure approaching the Palace. The old man hurriedly came out, a wide smile cracking his lower lip without any fuss. No sooner had he seen the figure, than he summoned all his people to his royal arena. They were to welcome a hero.
A rhythmic yabukali drum sounded as Chinkuli came nearer and nearer. Villagers ran to the royal arena to see what the matter was. As the gods were honorably having their best ceremonial times of praise, Chinkuli on the other hand was reluctantly walking in the compound. Ululation filled the air as a mob of merry-making villagers surged towards him. In a blink of an eye, Chinkuli was carried shoulder high and for the first time in two weeks, he smiled with honor. Drops of jovial and ecstatic tears dripped down his cheeks. He felt great and powerful. He looked at the cheering people below him; they all appeared worthless and visionless. He was their man and hero; survivor and fighter.
A week later, Chinkuli was honored by the headman. He became the Prince of the Highlanders and heir to the throne. A Princely necklace made of a lion’s skin was knotted round his thick muscular neck. When eight years later, headman Nampeyo died, Chinkuli was crowned headman of Nampeyo Highlands.
That was many years ago. But the story was still fresh in villagers’ minds; especially grey matters of old age. They talked about it in group gatherings; though their respect for him exceeded their knowledge behind his originality. To them headman Chinkuli was their savior. Across the highlands, down to the plateau and far wet in the Plains, his fame blew out like dry spells. He restructured his cabinet and re-set the structures in the compound to show his mantle power sending a signal that he was in charge.
Though he was so famous and in charge of a very feared land, Chinkuli was still with no wife; but at the previous meeting of elders, he assigned trusted emissaries to look for a woman for him to lead to the alter. The pioneers were given a one month thorough search for the Queen to be.

No comments:

Post a Comment