The abduction of the chief sent cries of pain and panic rippling through the village. Chief Konkwe was the head of Lukaro not just in status, but in power, too. He was a leader who was not scared of getting his hands dirty and he led his village with an iron fist. It was no surprise that the chiefs from other tribes feared him — he was the most powerful warrior in the land. Even the mining companies that came with proposals for acquiring the village land were turned away with force. The chief was the protector of the village, and his sudden abduction was like cutting the head off a powerful beast.
The men came barging in at midnight’s stroke. Not even the patrolling warriors could have been prepared for the mighty force with which the men attacked the village, decimating everything in their path. Guns blazing and huts destroyed, they did not leave before taking the chief with them. The village never truly recovered.
Chief Konkwe’s children were still infants and his male relatives were not amongst the highest ranks in Lukaro, thus the head warrior, Rukendo, was next in line for the throne. Some villagers had suspected foul play in the chief’s abduction, especially given recent events. Rukendo had acquired western goods such as cell phones, manufactured clothing and radios. He described these goods as “entertainment fit for the next chief.”
The inauguration of a chief was the most special occasion in Lukaro. The entire village attended this event, with plentiful food and drink served. The village dancers were in full attire and Lukaro’s bachelors often found their wives here. Of course, the new chief was given first preference in selecting any woman he wants to be the new queen. Rukendo had not opted for a choice just yet, so the position remained open for all the hopeful, young maids of the village.
“We are gathered as a village today to crown the new chief of Lukaro. It has now been one full year since our beloved chief was taken from us. He remains with us forever in our hearts, but it is now time to heal and move on,” the lead elder said. The lead elder was well-respected and he was the only man worthy of carrying out such a huge responsibility. “If there is anyone who objects to the crowning of Rukendo as our new chief, speak now and state your plea,” the elder announced. The village was dead still. Everyone waited to see if there was anyone bold enough to object.
“I DO NOT AGREE WITH THIS!” yelled Bafo.
Bafo was Chief Konkwe’s nephew and a skilled warrior.
“I do not see why a mere commoner should be crowned chief, while a blood relative of the true chief is alive and well,” Bafo argued.
“How dare you call me a commoner!” Rukendo shouted. “I have been your commander ever since you became a warrior, and this is how you thank me!?”
“This is nothing personal, Rukendo,” Bafo replied. “I just see something deeply wrong with changing the very bloodline of royalty!” he declared.
The tension was building. A moment of tentative silence and two hostile stares later, and it was decided. The only way to handle such a dispute was by the best measure of power — a duel.
Rukendo was the head warrior and thus the commander in battle, but his true power lied in his tactical abilities. Bafo was a much more hands-on warrior and was more inclined to close-encounter duels. With the stakes so high, however, this battle could have gone either way.
Rukendo hit the first strike, like an angered beast warning a challenger to refrain from pervading its territory. Bafo was taken aback but quickly regained his focus. After a successful defence from a barrage of attacks, Rukendo struck Bafo again, this time on an exposed leg. Blood gushed from Bafo’s thigh. The fight continued and Rukendo seemed to have the upper hand.
“What’s up, mfana wangu? Are you really going to make it this easy?” taunted Rukendo.
Mfana wangu was a Shona term for “my little boy”. The pain of insult, combined with Rukendo’s lowered guard, allowed Bafo to make a powerful strike. The machete slashed through Rukendo’s chest and the wailing of pain echoed across the battleground. Both men were hurt and bloody at this stage, but the battle was not going to end until a clear winner emerged — death was a probability. The two warriors fought continuously, each time capitalising on small movements and exposed guards to inflict powerful blows.
The crowd’s chanting was deafening. The chanting ranged from worried cries to cheers of enjoyment. A battle for chieftaincy was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see two powerful warriors going at it. At the battlefield, the climax was approaching. Both men were bloodied and they were using every last ounce of energy that they could generate. A decisive moment then shocked the crowd — Rukendo dealt a vicious blow to Bafo’s bloody face. This sent Bafo falling to the ground. Rukendo was now towering over his limp body; the pain and fear evident on Bafo’s face. The winner had been decided — Rukendo was the warrior most fit to be the next chief.
Shocked whispers reverberated everywhere. The crowd wondered whether Rukendo would decide to spare Bafo’s life or kill him to make a statement. He still had his machete gripped tightly in his hand, and he did not show any signs of letting go. The moment for him to decide was now approaching, but he was not allowed this moment — a fast spear straight through the neck struck Rukendo perfectly. He had been killed.
The village members were on their feet. The punishment for interfering with a village battle meant that no ordinary villager would have been bold enough to intervene in this battle. The unrest and fears that the men who abducted the former chief had returned, were immediate. The village warriors were preparing for a battle — Rukendo’s assassins had to be confronted. The anticipation was climbing and nerves were building, but there were to be no further battles. The lethal spear to Rukendo’s neck could only have been thrown by a true warrior — the most powerful warrior in the land.
Power Play was first published in Twenty-two Twenty-eight.
Anesu Jahura is a young writer and student residing in Cape Town, South Africa. He writes general fiction and nonfiction, as well as opinion pieces about pressing issues. He is a private person who enjoys his own company, along with that of his close friends and family. His main aspirations are to one day become a mechanical engineer and a well-published author.