Mayo set up a campfire, cleaned up the dead rabbit with water from his drinking bag and started to prepare dinner. Kubu stood close, watching the interrogation. While Dogo patrolled the surroundings, ensuring there was no danger lurking in the forest.
With nothing to do, Deba joined Mayo. Although her eyes were focused on Mekani and the Zulu man.
“If you are going to cook, you should focus on the food,” Mayo smiled knowingly at her.
“I’m just trying to follow their discussion,” she defended, wondering why he was smiling the way he was.
“No. You’re not,” Mayo sighed and returned his eyes to the rabbit roasting in front of him. Again, it was a big rabbit and Deba noticed, “Your eyes haven’t left him since the journey started,” Mayo finished.
“And who are you talking about? The warrior? You can’t blame me, I don’t trust him.”
“I’m talking about Mekani.”
Deba froze. She wondered why Mayo would say something like that. What was so good about their leader that she couldn’t take her eyes off him? Anyway, maybe he was gearing up for an argument. She wouldn’t give him the pleasure. “How come the rabbit is big?” She changed the topic. “When we saw it at the farm, it was not so big.”
“I use my special ingredients on it, so it is big enough to go round everyone. A handful of roasted rabbit with the leftover yams, and we will all be well fed.”
“In other words, your ingredients are not normal ingredients. You use magic to cook?” Her brows shot up and the realization hit her. “How do you do it?”
“Observe.” He said, then unwrapped one leave from his pouch, scooped a few of the powdered ingredients and sprinkled them on the roasting rabbit. Gradually, its size increased.
Deba’s surprise knew no bounds. She went on all fours and crept closer to inspect the rabbit. “Wow!” She was unable to hide her excitement. It was the first time she was witnessing magic. She had only heard of it in folktales before. “Mayo, you should have said something right from the beginning. This is like an invention.”
“Yes. Juba’s invention.” He smiles broadened.
“Juba,” she said the name, tasting it and trying to decide what next to say. “He must be a very useful god. He has a lot of qualities, I can see. And inventions too.” She admired the robust rabbit.
Mayo chuckled. “Yes. Don’t worry. One day, soon, you will meet him.”
“So I was told.”
They all sat around the campfire later that night, eating the roasted rabbit and leftover yams. Mekani offered some to the Zulu prisoner. But the prisoner wouldn’t eat. Mekani tried to convince him that the food was not poisoned, by taking a few bites from it. But still, the prisoner wouldn’t eat. He then returned to the others by the campfire.
“What next?” Dogo asked, having observed what transpired, “he won’t eat and we can’t have a man die in our camp.”
“He hasn’t given me any useful information.” Mekani sighed. “I know a bit about the Zulus. They don’t bring the fight for no reason. And to have come all the way here, something big is really happening.”
“Must we make their business our business?” Deba asked. “We could let him go.”
“That is risky.” Kubu countered, “he can easily get his men and bring them after us.”
“But we can’t kill him either,” Deba argued. A short silence followed.
“You do what you think is right,” Dogo said to Mekani before taking a drink and getting up.
“And where are you going?” Mekani looked up at him.
Mekani nodded and faced the fire again. From across, where Deba sat, she observed him. He looked thoughtful like he was seriously trying to decide the next best move. He ate his meat quietly, and his eyes remained on the flames from the campfire. Her eyes traced the lines on his face, down to the muscles of his shoulders and chest. Mayo was right. She had spent most of the day watching him, memorizing every part of his body. And now there she was, staring again, shamelessly. How he had shown up from nowhere and stolen her heart was a mystery. All he had said was that he dreamt of her too. She didn’t even know if he was telling the truth or lies. But still, she had taken to him so easily.
Maybe I’m going crazy. She thought.
As if in response to her claim, Mekani looked up. His eyes caught hers and he smiled; a warm smile that reached his eyes. She smiled too, although she wasn’t certain why they were smiling at each other.
Later that night Dogo, Mekani, and Kubu patrolled the environs. As far as Deba knew, Mayo was the cook in the team, not a fighter. She wasn’t too comfortable with the fact that she and Mayo were left alone with the Zulu warrior. What if he tried to escape? What would they do? She decided she was going to stay awake and watch him. If he loosened his binds and attacked them, then she would scream. It is the best she can do.
Not long afterward, she wasn’t going to do anything. Sleep came and carried her on its wings, even before she realized it. Her red cape hugged her body, keeping the cold away. It was a wet sticky sensation on her right foot that woke her up. It was dark, although streaks of moonlight invaded the forest.
She was about to take a sitting position and look around when she felt the wetness and stickiness again. Something or someone was licking her foot. Slowly, she raised her head to take a look at her visitor. The fear started from her heart and spread to her head. She opened her mouth to scream, but firm hands closed them from behind.
“Shhhhhh… Just watch.” Mekani said against her ears.
Glad it was him, she calmed down a bit and watched the white hound licking her foot some more.
“Do you have any injury on your feet?” Mekani asked, also watching the animal.
“Good. As long as it does not taste blood, it won’t sink its teeth into your foot. Just breath. Try to relax.”
It was a while later that a distant cry of another hound in the forest caused the one before her to abandoned her foot and runoff. Mekani chuckled lightly when he felt Deba sigh in relieve.
“You should have thought it was me. Then you wouldn’t have been so scared.” He said.
“You’re a black hound, Mekani.” She said. “Not white.”
“Yes. That is true. Come, I want to show you something.”
“What about Mayo?” She was worried, “We will be leaving him alone with the prisoner. It is risky.”
“Mayo is the last person you should worry about. Worry about us instead,” he smiled, “Come.”
He led her away from the camp and further into the forest. They climbed several steep parts before emerging at the edge of a rocky cliff, the forest standing behind them. The night sky was clear and the twinkling stars surrounded the bright moon in their thousands.
“When you stand here and look below, you see a whole kingdom,” Mekani said in awe.
“Yes. But it is dark below.”
“Not entirely. Look.” He pointed at a small village where campfires were set up. Some huts had their lamps on too. “They might be celebrating a festival.”
“It is nice” She tightened the cape around her shoulders. The cold was getting to her.
“It is nice? That is all you will say?” Mekani asked, the moonlight revealing his raised brows accompanied by a smile tugging at his lips.
“I don’t believe the view is all the reason you brought me here, Mekani.” She smiled back. “Is it time for us to start acting out your dreams?”
His brows went even higher. He loved her boldness. Some other girls in his kingdom would shy away and pretend not to notice anything. “I would love the entire dream acted out. But Juba will strike me dead before we even begin.” He laughed.
“Will he strike me too? I need to know how soon I’ll die.”
“Stop it. Don’t joke with such things.” Mekani took her left hand and pulled her to him. His other hand slid around her waist, holding her firmly against his frame. He bent low and planted a soft kiss on her bare shoulders. She shivered. “You are right. The view is not the only reason I brought you here,” He whispered against her cheeks. Her nearness had caused his breathing to become rapid.
“I thought you are scared of Juba.” She whispered back, pressing her bosom against his chest and enjoying the bulge she felt against her abdomen.
“No. I’m afraid of what I might do to you.” Her actions had caused him to harden some more “You should be afraid too.”
“Of your lovemaking?” She chuckled.
He inhaled deeply. Even her chuckle was affecting his reasoning. “I want you everyday Deba. Every time.” His hands moved to rest on the swell of her back and then squeeze. “I want you.” He whispered before his lips descended on hers. She kissed him back. Her passion surprisingly matched his own as her hands slid up and found their way through his dreadlocks. She pulled him closer. Pleasurable currents flowed between them. To her, this was heaven. No man would ever have been able to make her feel like this. Besides, if his kiss was this wonderful, she wondered what having the rest of him would be like.
Mekani knew he shouldn’t push things. But home was far. How long would he wait to marry her and claim his prize? Her softness, her passion, the power she had over him were driving him nuts. If he didn’t do something, he knew he was going to go crazy with unfulfilled desires.
He scooped her into his arm and carried her a short distance to where an animal skin cape lay on the ground. He put her on it and joined her. Lips remained locked. His hands went for her upper covering and with some gentle tugging, it loosened and started to slide down. Deba caught it and pulled back, pressing the red velvet wrapper to her almost exposed breasts. Mekani swallowed.
“I will understand if you have second thoughts.” He managed.
“Not second thoughts. I want an assurance that this is real. Not a mere physical activity for you.” She needed to be sure. For some unknown reasons, ever since Mekani made mention of his dreams, she had found herself drawn to him and yearning for him in ways she never thought possible. If what he felt for her was not real, she had a right to know she was about to throw her dignity off a cliff.
“Deba.” His voice was hoarse and his eyes glittered as they peered into hers. “You are never just a physical exercise to me. You’re my heart. And if I don’t have you, then I don’t have a heart. And if there is no heart, then there is no me.”
Deba chuckled. “You sound like our palace historian when he’s narrating a love story.”
Mekani laughed. She joined him. They never thought they could laugh about anything when passion and desire were about to consume them. Silence followed. They stared at each other, wondering what the other was thinking and how they would continue what they already started. Mekani wasn’t so sure anymore if making a move on her at the moment was the right thing to do. She was scared he was a fake. She had every right to. But what was going to happen to his already hardened length?
Deba wanted him to continue. She wanted him to take the lead, just as he had done earlier. She would have taken a bold step to continue, but she didn’t want to come across as cheap. One bold step at a time was enough. Too much boldness could scare him off.
They had only said their names when distant cries of hounds greeted their ears. Mekani’s head shot up. His senses were alert and he cursed.
“Relax.” Deba placed a hand on his shoulder. “It could be the other normal hounds.”
“No.” He disagreed. “I recognize my men when I hear them.” He sprang to his feet, trying to shake off the haze that had formed in his head. Deba tied her cloth back and joined him. “The camp is under attack. We need to go back.
To be continued….
First published in 2016 on Karo’s Story Blog
©Karo Oforofuo. August 2016. All rights reserved.
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