Great Day In the Morning – some days are just too wonderful.
Checked mail this morning and there was a letter from All Things That Matter Press telling me they were starting editing on Of Chiefs and Giants. That is the second part of the A River That Is Congo duet. The two books take place in the same time frame. Actually Of Chiefs and Giants starts in 1879 and Of Rulers and Ruled starts in 1902. They both end in 1965 when the Congo gained independence. Like I said, some days are just too wonderful.
Of Rulers and Ruled takes place along the Congo River and describes the greed and cruelty of an exploitive colonial government.
Of Chiefs and Giants takes place in the Northeast corner of the Congo, about as far from the seat of government and commerce as you could get and chronicles the lives of a powerful chief’s two sons who were born on the same day but of different mothers. One son steals the chiefdom from the rightful ruler who then goes to the newly arrived missionaries thinking he can get them with their guns to help him take back what is rightfully his.
Here is the first few paragraphs from Of Chiefs and Giants.
Ronzozo, first son of Chief Kimulu and chief-to-be, stood in the center of the front rank of warriors along the crest of the hill. The rising sun cast diagonal shadows to the slopes across the valley. Directly behind them, hidden in the ravine were five hundred more warriors. An equal number of warriors were hidden behind the hill at the other end of the ravine.
The first rank of the enemy crested the hill on the other side of the valley and the warriors started beating their shields in unison and shouting, Kufu. Kufu. Kufu. Kufu. Ronzozo watched with anxious uneasiness as rank upon rank came over the crest of the hill opposite, each rank joining the others, beating on their shields and shouting their threat. Their ranks, crowding in on each other, swelling until there were more than four times as many warriors on the opposite hill as there were on his side. He breathed a sigh of relief and smiled with secret confidence. Just as his father had predicted, Dumodo’s warriors would fight the old way, not holding anything in reserve. They were not practicing any cunning.
For half an hour the opposing forces stood at the tops of their respective hills chanting their threat of; Kill, Kill, Kill, Kill. Ronzozo stood shouting with the rest of them, looking back and forth from the enemy across from him and to his father standing up in his tepoi to his right. He felt safe now, the bodies of the warriors on each side of him touching his body. He could smell the oil they had rubbed on themselves and the smell of the enveloping palm oil gave him a feeling of safety in their closeness. If a spear were to come flying toward them it would hit someone else, but everyone was thinking the same thing.
Their common sense told them if a spear was coming right for them there would be no way to dodge it if they stayed pressed close together. Over and over again his father explained it to him, to the chiefs and to the warriors and yet he knew the impulse would be to stay bunched together. It was just this impulse on the part of the enemy that would be their defeat.
He saw his father raise his right hand, the Gangilo held above his head. His father point with his left hand toward the other side and the right arm came down. Ronzozo raised his spear over his head, gave a shout and they started running down the hill. Their movement was like a trigger releasing the enemy and the two opposing forces rushed toward each other toward the valley below.
Ronzozo and all his forces were halfway down the hill when he saw the reserves running up the other side to get in position to come against Dumodo’s warriors on the flank and from behind. The reserves ran with stealth and bent low, with no shouting that would let the enemy know they were there. Halfway down the hill Ronzozo and those with him stopped. Those in the ranks behind turned when he stopped and started running back up the hill while those in the front rank spread out. Dumodo’s warriors interpreted their action first as fear, and then as retreat, and some of them started running ahead wanting to be the first to have a kill.
This battle takes place 13 years before Ronzozo’s two sons are born.
Copyright © 2012 by Paul J. Stam
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