- Enemy Circles – Season One, Episode 1
- Enemy Circles – Season One, Episode 2
- Jomo: Enemy circles (Novel) – Season one, Episode 3
- Jomo: Enemy circles (Novel) – Season one, Episode 4
- Jomo: Enemy circles (Novel) – Season one, Episode 5
- Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 6
- Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 7
- Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 8
- Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 9
- Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 10
- Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 11
- Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 12
- Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 13
- Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 14
A simple love story of courage, adventure and loyalty, depicted at the time when one of the most civilized empires in West Africa, Songhai Empire, fell.
THE DESERT PEOPLE
The sound of the pitchy yodelling of women and beats of drums, alongside laughter from women and children, could only mean one thing in Agadez–a wedding. A caravan of Arab merchants was entering the city at the same time, with announcing bells heralding its arrival, contributing to the loudness and pulling raucous expectant buyers of one needed item or the other.
The city of Agadez, with its mud architecture, date-palm trees and sandy streets, looked too peaceful at this time for Hamma’s purpose of visitation. Mud and sand uniformity characterized the city’s appeal. Constantly the wind blew grains of sand, necessitating covering of the mouth and eyes with the turban. That and all, here is where Hamma came to discuss war alliance. Young boys with their face covered with sand were more interested in Hamma’s entourage than the caravan. One day and one night’s journey in the Sahel terrain and then Sahara brought general Hamma and his five escorts to the Tamashek city of Agadez.
It was yet a jovial city, clean and neat, Hamma thought. His mind was too burdened with more serious issues of negotiating to fully enjoy the beauty of the city. His convoy was in a stack contrast with the picture the Tuareg people and their charming city painted. Though nobody acknowledged the contrast except Hamma, it troubled him to imagine the Maghreb extending invasion up to here. His vision caught little girls in simple white clothes following the caravan; they seemed to be heading to wherever the wedding was taking place.
“It looks like Eid here, don’t you think?” One of Hamma’s escorts asked his comrade.
At the palace, Hamma and his men were served hot tea and date fruits. The palace was the same exotic simplicity that defined the Tuareg life – turban, sand, tea and camel. Hamma started the business at hand right away. He talked at length, employing the usage of all diplomatic strategy he could think appropriate with the king.
Hassan Abdu the King of Agadez, listened intently. He was a fair smallish man with feline features. His sematic face could easily be placed for that of an Arab or Berber man. He wore a bright blue babban riga with white turban. His angular face betrayed no emotion.
Silence followed for a while after Hamma stopped talking. Hamma was not expecting the king to concede immediately and throw him a joyous party as a result of this glad tiding; it won’t be easy to make a Tuareg king join a war for the Songhai empire, that much he knew. The two peoples had histories of conflict in the past, it might be that Songhai was the first external government to meddle itself with the affairs of the Touregs and live to tell about it. As it was always with the Tuareg, they were always self-ruled, and never make part of the politics of other governments. That was before Songhai invaded their land, subdued them into paying tribute and exiled their Twin Kings. Hamma was aware that it was going to be a long day for him, looking at the king’s bland face.
“Thank you for honouring us with the request.” The king began at last.
“I will advise you to spend three days with us as we confer on the issue. At the end of the stay we will give you our stand.”
Not totally unexpected, Hamma thought. This could spell indecision and probable rejection. What if after spending three days the decision came out negative? Those three days were too valuable to spend sleeping in the cheerful city and waiting for some old people, mostly agitated by the effect of the strong tea they drank, as they confer and by prejudice of the old wounds, to say no to his request. It had to be dealt with here and now, he thought.
“May Allah uplift your glory, even I appreciate your consideration over the matter, but I am afraid three days is way too valuable for us to give for conferring with your subjects. As I explained we could be attacked any day from today. I know how hard this could be for you to decide hastily, particularly that your people are not exactly on the line of fire, but I assure your highness that the invaders have a sophisticated weapon and if they conquer us there won’t be anything standing between them and your lands…”
“…Except, we don’t have gold and salt mines to attract the invaders. Also we have a lot of explanation to give to our people as to why we are helping the same people that once fought us.” King Hassan interjected, baring the circumstances further to his guest.
Apart from the fact that there weren’t too much dire need for the desert people to go into the war in a hurry, it was understandable to Hamma that their reluctance could easily be bred by the history. Even as Jano suggested, it didn’t quite sound like a justified reason, but rather a possibility they would wish to have working to their advantage. Hamma also knew from the beginning that the prospective alliance was to the empire’s benefit more than the Touareg’s. Nonetheless, if frightening them would bring them into compliance, why not give it a try, and trying was what Hamma was doing. How long before Hamma would run out of threats that would make the Tuareg rush to help, he had no idea. What he was sure, however, was that he didn’t have much of those options to get a quick result without sweating.
“Yes, your highness, your lands might not attract the enemy for its wealth or any other incentive to make them descend upon you, but what will happen to your economy if the empire is destroyed? You trade with us more than you do with any other people. Come to think about our educational system your people extensively use, thanks to your passion for knowledge seeking, I am sure his highness attended the famous Sankore University. Destroying all that by the enemy will not be in your people’s best interest.” He prayed the bait would work; it was one of the last.
King Hassan adjusted his turban.
“I am sure you noticed the incoming caravan as you arrive.” He ignored the bait.
“We do trade with the northern kingdoms these days. Even though we have a large need for trading with you, the Mamluks in Misra are extending their trade coverage up to here. In fact, most of the northern kingdoms that trade with the Hausa lands find this city a good stopover and a trading post as well. We are not currently under any extensive economic expansion, as you know we are a simple people with a simple ideology for materialism. Unlike the Hausa people in the south, we consume less, though I will agree with you if you argue that such a trend is past changing. Even so, your argument is still not a strong reason for me to send my people into your war for economy sake. We do trade with you more than any other people, no doubt, but don’t forget that this Saharan route we have, with which we trade with the Mediterranean lands, can replace you. As our people develop taste for these foreign commodities we are on the trade route linking to the Savannah kingdoms that consume hugely, and attract trade all over. Also as it turned out, we have what these traders need for raw materials that the Hausas cannot provide, silver.” He smiled before adding. “You see, no economic danger.”
Hamma wasn’t making progress with the shrewd king. He was not aware of this silver trading, though, which, if it turned out to be true, the Tuareg might have all the reason to be fearful of the enemy. Hamma’s mind was quick to grasp that. He could throw more fear into the Tuareg king’s mind by virtue of that. According to the reports that reached Gao, the Maghreb king would invade the empire in search of revenue sources to sustain his various campaigns. It was also reported that Songhai’s gold and salt mines were likely his interests. A silver mine not far away from Songhai, if known to the Magharebans, would be a bonus for fast grabbing. But that will depend on the magnitude of the raw material the king claimed they have. He couldn’t use that bait blindly until he finds out more about it. As for now, he would pretend his last option was to plead for help. It won’t make Songhai any less vulnerable than it was at the moment.
“You have to join us deal with the Maghreb, it is a menace to your people as well. Even if you don’t see it that way, I plead on behalf of the emperor to help us do that in the spirit of Islamic and neighbourly brotherhood.”
King Hassan smiled patiently.
“Mallam Hamma, we are not in any danger of this invaders we all know that, but I can understand your plight. As it is with our culture, we don’t fight other people’s battles but we always fight ours. We are aware of what is happening in the Songhai even before you come here, and as a Muslim state we couldn’t justify the Maghreb invasion, just as we didn’t justify your invasion into our lands. We see it as selfish and not in Allah’s cause. “
Hamma’s dying flames of hope were flickering to their final doom.
“That is right, your highness.” He thought for a moment, and decided he had to gamble his last draw; it couldn’t get any more worse with the king. “The Maghreb would be interested in your silver after it exhausted our salt and gold mines and whatever way it decided to siphon our revenue sources. I am sure the wise king knows about the capital intensive campaigns the Maghreb is undertaking, and as the prime reason for deciding to invade us now.”
The king apparently didn’t know about these campaigns, because he looked surprised at that revelation. Hamma was happy to see that faltering of confidence.
“Normally I would tell you no without much ado. But this is a different situation, I can see, and that is why I would like you to give us time to confer on the matter; obviously we didn’t expect the Songhai to ask for our help, that’s why I don’t have a ready answer for you. I will then consider the emergency of the matter and haste our conference of chiefs, but you will have to stay with us until tomorrow morning.”
“May Allah guide your ways, and thank you for giving me an audience.” Was all Hamma could say.
King Hassan gave orders in Tamashek language. Young lads in white turbans appeared and lead Hamma and his escorts away from the court room. After their departure, the meeting of chiefs began right away.
Princess Galah heard about the arrival of the Songhai soldiers. Her maid was always quick in relaying all news within the palace to her. Outside the palace walls too she gathered that the long awaited caravan had finally arrived. She learnt of their approach from scouts working for her husband to-be. She was glad she was not away in the wedding which her mother insisted she had to make appearance; otherwise she would have missed these latest developments that didn’t happen every other day, especially the one unravelling at the palace.
Galah was the only child King Hassan ever had. She was a beautiful and intelligent girl, whose leadership skills could easily be detected right from her childhood. At the age of fifteen she was more or less in charge of the palace. She was bold and use intellect to put things in order within the walls of her father’s palace. Call it nose-poking, as many of the palace attendants described her unusual interest in the affairs of the palace. But if you ask Galah, she would tell you that it was her duty to help manage her father’s kingdom. Her actions more often than not proved rational. Even the men working in the palace as guards, stable boys or just messengers respect the teenage girl, either out of admiration, respect or just because they don’t want to be on the wrong page with the princess; one could hardly tell why. Her father loved her so much, but was sad that as a woman, in spite of her natural leadership capability, she couldn’t inherit his kingdom. He used to say she was everything that makes him, except she was a woman.
“Have you not learnt what they are here for?”
Galah breathed the Tamashek words easily, her tongue twisting around each articulation, sounding like an exotic song. If her mother was gone then she will be looking the ways for her now. She insisted a princess is a piece of inspiration for the womenfolk of her kingdom. She wished a princess was a piece of inspiration for the whole kingdom, not just the womenfolk in it. Now she was running out of time, she didn’t want to be missed at the wedding if she could, but she would at least want to know what brought the riders to Agadez before she leaves for the wedding. The details of it would on the top of her to do list when she returned.
“No, they were still inside when I left.” Fatto, the maid answered. “Are we going to the market first or to the wedding? I heard the musicians at the wedding came from Misra. Is that even true? I mean how lavishly prepared this wedding could be, to hire musicians from as far a land as Misra.”
“I don’t know. Go back and find out about the riders.”
Fatto knew that Galah would never be satisfied until she finds out exactly what the new comers were doing in town. She wished the princess will go to the market and check out the latest arrivals with the caravan, and then move on to the wedding. The wedding was one of the highest marriage profiles in town. That would have been fabulous. Many times during their visit to the market the princess spends more time talking with the merchants than buying anything. Even then, spending time at the market would be more fun than eavesdropping at the palace.
“I am afraid I can’t enter the court as you know. Let’s wait a little while until whatever discussion taking place ended. Hami will tell me everything that was said.”
“Who is Hami?” Fatto smiled and started removing Galah’s head tie.
“How do you think I get the knowledge of all the court’s affairs as fast as I do? It is from him, from Hami the court servant.”
She let loose the head tie, long soft silky braids of Galah’s hair tumbled on her shoulders as they escaped the prison of the headgear.
Galah did not care from where or whom information was sourced, what she cared about was its reliability. And she sure didn’t like that Fatto was beginning to lose her braids.
“What are you doing?”
“You need conditioning.”
Fatto was trying to quickly loose as many braids as possible before she was told to stop, and which she believed if she allowed Galah enough breathing time that was exactly what was going to happen. The worst would be she ended up waiting outside for Hami to relate his gossips after the long hours of meeting were over.
“Was it not the day before yesterday you applied the last?”
“Yes, it was.”
Fatto was going for the second braid, and knew that if she could loosen it before Galah decided she didn’t want the annoying conditioning as she calls it, there will be no going back for it.
“If I will have my way with you I will do it every other day. You have no idea how beautiful it makes you look.”
“And you know I don’t care.”
Two of her long silky braids were already loosened. Galah had to let her do the thing. She didn’t care about doing this time wasting beautification routines like all the times. But nothing made the silly maid happier. This Fatto will never understand. She had more important things to do. Now that she already loosened two of her braids there is no point redoing them. Galah decided it won’t hurt to have her hair conditioned, that would at least make her mother happy at the wedding. And, that would keep her busy until she could find out what was going on in the court room. If she had time she would hurry to the market to talk to Abu Saleh and then to the wedding. She had a lot do and here she is conditioning her hair. She wanted to screw Fatto’s stubborn head off her scrawny neck.
A few minutes later, Galah’s soft hair was all loosed and reached up to her lower back. Fatto was busy putting the fine powder of the green leaves used for conditioning into a wide trough containing little water. As soon as the powder started mixing with the water it turned into a dark, green, slimy paste. Fatto briskly turned it to attain uniformity. A few minutes of mixing produced a uniform slime. When Fatto turned in Gala’s direction, the princess was reading a small book with her untended hair falling forward, and totally hiding her face. She looked like a witch in a deep study of some intricate concoction.
Fatto secretly smiled at the notion of Galah deserving the name of ‘a wild desert princess’; What a princess, she thought.
“I am ready.”
“I hate having to do this every other day. I hate having to do this at all. Galah complained, looking at the slimy green paste with disgust, as she reluctantly set the book down on top of many others scattered on a straw box.
Fatto was used to Galah’s complaints when it came to anything other than what she sets her mind to do. She could spend a year without doing her hair if she was left alone. What she cared about most was poking her nose into every business that had nothing to do with her – affairs of the palace and the kingdom at large – things that should be left to her male seniors. To Fatto this was an absolute waste of opportunity for being a princess. What kind of princess wouldn’t want to attend a lavish wedding such as the one taking place at Shattu’s house now? Shattu’s wedding was as first class merriment, the best wedding anyone could hope to attend. Galah had to be reminded of the name of Shattu’s daughter, her supposed friend and whose wedding she should be at now, and apparently she didn’t remember the girl at all.
Galah didn’t even care when her father chose his late brother’s son for her to marry. All she ever cared about was that someday he would inherit her father’s kingdom, and she would have a mighty power of running the kingdom, instead of marrying some prince that would take her far away to where she knew nought concerning the administration of the land.
“We are set. Bend your head.” Fatto positioned to start as she pushed the books on the mat away to make room.
“Watch it! Don’t ruin my books with this stupid concoction of yours.”
She collected the books; put them on her bedding before she returned to the mat. “It reminds me, I hope Abu Saleh has not forgotten the books he promised to bring me.”
“Who is Abu Saleh?”
Fatto didn’t like him before she was even told who he was. If Galah found anything about him interesting then he wasn’t fun to the larger majority of the girls in the world.
“Oh. the caravan leader. He told me of Greek books now translated into Arabic the last time he was here.”
She frowned at the herbal trough. She wondered if there was any scientific proof that applying the green slime was indeed effective in doing the stuffs they said it did. “Get it done with fast, as you can see I have many things to do, and the next time you want to beautify me, ask for my permission first.
“Yes princess, now bend down, let’s do this.”
Galah bent as she was instructed, grunting and complaining all along. Her long hair fell forward, falling inside the trough and masking her bitter face.
Fatto was glad she didn’t have to look at the scowling face. “Have you asked for other things besides books?” Fatto gathered Galah’s hair in preparation for conditioning.
“Other things like what.” Galah’s amplified voice sounded more scolding in the trough.
“I don’t know, like Greek Jewelries or fine Egyptian cotton or perfumeries.”
Fatto hoped these, coming from the same origin as the books, might interest Galah.
“Do we wear those things here?” That was akin to saying ‘no, you fool!’ thought Fatto
“I guess you don’t. But I saw one fine necklace with Aminata and she told me it was expensive; and that she bought it from the caravan during its last visit. You have to see that piece of beauty, it was stunning.”
Fatto picked a wooden brush with her right hand and used the left to scoop ample amounts of the green slimy paste, applying it from Galah’s nape. The paste easily assimilated into the hair, further reducing its volume until the shape of Galah’s skull was all out. Then she worked her way down the length of the soft hair. She parted the hair at the middle, with clear exactness, and braided the two potions, each after thorough squeezing of the excess paste out of the hair. Galah was still glaring at Fatto when she rose from her bent position. Green smears of the paste painting her forehead.
“Who is Aminata?”
“Shattu’s daughter, the girl whose marriage ceremony we are about to be late to, unless we hurry up”. Fatto wanted to scream.
“Oh, I see. Can you go to your Hami friend now?” She asked her beautician, not minding the slimes on her ears, nape and forehead, not to mention the look of hopeless exasperation on the maid’s face.
“As soon as I get you clean.”
I would rather be at that wedding than here, Fatto thought. Even the market is now beginning to sound less exiting with the revelation of what they were picking. Why books and not some fineries from the sea lands? She produced a fresh cloth and wiped Galah’s forehead, ears and nape clean. Then she used a camel brush to brush through the hair. She placed a mirror in front of Galah’s face, smiling at her work.
The hair was well conditioned from the moisture and slimy paste; the leaves are doing a great job holding the hair in place due to its gelling effect. It also looked shiny and overall beautiful.
“It is still my hair.” Galah looked away, searching for that book she was reading.
Fatto gave up. That’s it. I am going to that wedding alone. She won’t miss me for the market tour.
“Let me go and see Hami.” She started to leave.
“Yes, please I will be waiting for you. Don’t keep me waiting.” Galah’s enthusiasm was obvious.
“It might take a while, but not any longer than necessary.”
Fatto went out; at the back of her mind were the thoughts of Aminata’s wedding as her first stopover.
“I am sure this weapon is dangerous enough for Songhai to ask for our help.”
Even the mightiest power seeks for alliance in times of war. Hamani was not surprised that the Songhai guests were here to ask for their help. That he heard from Galah. They came because the Tuareg are skilled fighters and very brave at it, it gave him pride and didn’t seem unusual that the powerful Songhai came to them pleading. But it seemed to carry other meanings to his betrothed. Galah would always see meanings were none seemed to exist.
Hamani was not bored by Galah’s analysis; she always came up with bright ideas. She was a perfect wife for somebody who is inheriting a throne, sometimes though he wished she behaved like other girls. He wished she flirted and do all girly things like that Aminata, whose wedding Fatiha was held today at the central mosque. Since they were betrothed, he got enough lectures in administration from Galah. At the beginning he didn’t take her serious, telling himself that soon enough she would get bored and concentrate on being a princess, she never did, and later he came to realize that it was all she cared about. He also decided he had no complaints, provided she was still marrying him. She seemed to have no problem with that.
Their discussion was hardly about building a home or even romantic, the girl seemed to be blank in that area. The only thing that interested her was the fate of their land and people and, sometimes, she had some weird theories that Hamani hoped they never come to pass.
She had almost all his books with her, from borrowing. Most of those books he brought from Sankore University at Timbuktu, where he studied and graduated in philosophy and aspects of administration, some he inherited from his dead father who attended the same university. He had never seen someone who could read as fast as Galah. She complained a hundred times that it was not fair women were not allowed to study at the university, and he comforted her over a hundred times that she was more learned than many people he met at the university, and it was not just flattery.
As soon as Hamani knew about their guests, he had no doubt that Galah and he would be having a discussion of their lifetime out of it. He was right, she sent for him, and here they were talking about nothing else.
“So are we helping them?”
Hamani was insinuating that she knew the outcome of the meeting. She seemed to know a lot of things. It won’t surprise him if she knew that one.
“Not fully. If you know our people, you know that we will never fight somebody else’s fight. Galah’s young face carried no hint of the gravity of her conversation. She turned to look at Hamani, glaring at him. “Are you mocking me, but of course you know the outcome of the meeting.”
Hamani looked at the girl. She was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. Her white simply cut blouse with a perfect rectangular neckline bearing simple lines of embroidery in multi-coloured threads made her looked younger than the fifteen and a half years old she was. Intricate silver earrings, necklaces and rings enhanced her beauty beyond what he could say. On her head, she had a head-tie of dyed cotton that looked more like she was carrying, rather than wearing it. Long braids of shiny soft black hair reached up to her blouse. She was wearing a wrapper of a similar dyed material. Hamani felt he was the luckiest man on earth.
“Your hair looks beautiful.”
Galah consciously tucked back the braids inside her head-tie, hiding it completely out of view.
“Thank you. I was saying. We will help them by training their soldiers. Apparently they are interested in our desert fighting skills, and I am very sure you will be neck deep involved in the whole Songhai matter soon.”
Hamani let the issue of her hair go. If he knew her well, that was not unexpected. He could have spent a whole day telling her how beautiful she was. But not this Galah, she didn’t register compliments about her looks nearly at all. You could tell that she looks awful and it won’t much make any difference. Complimenting her decision making would, however, fetch you a nice smile. She loved talking to Hamani because he was interested in administration and government, as he prepared himself for the task of being the next king.
“That should be good, right?” He also valued her opinions, which more than a couple of times turned out to bear substance.
Galah looked at the far horizon of sand and wind. It was near dusk, the temperature had drastically fallen from the frying degrees of the day time to cool dry breezes of the evening. From where they were seating they could see many other families or friends enjoying the coolness of the evening as they sipped teas, eat dates and talk the sunset away.
“Yeah, I think father did right making that decision. Though Songhai once fought us, killed many of our people and exiled the Twin Kings, this is not the time to let grudges influence how we decide in handling an enemy like the Maghreb.”
She sighed. “You know, it is not the Maghreb I am concerned about at all.” Hamani was curious.
“I thought you agreed the king made the right decision, what is it then?”
Many times she would disagree with her father’s judgement on issues that concern their relationship with other nations. She, for example, was in not agreement with the way her people would always resist getting involved with foreign affairs which she thought was very important. If they were to advance they had to learn crafts and skills and adopt ideas from other people. Since the beginning of the trade with the north she gathered information from the caravan traders about other lands across the northern sea – their government systems, economic policies and more. She learnt there were powerful kingdoms with vast wealth and technology. If only they could open to such ideas they too could bask in similar glory. That was why she asked Abu Saleh, the caravan commander, to bring her books containing ideas from across the northern sea. If she is lucky, more than dozen of such will be in Abu Saleh’s possession now, and tomorrow she would be at the market for them. She also decided to fish out information on what is happening in the north and across the sea. She paid the caravan commander well enough, and he was always glad to be of her service. The shrewd merchant knew that a princess is a very important ally in trade relationships with a kingdom.
On this particular issue of the imminent war in the west she felt it’s a good decision to join the Songhai in the fight. Maghreb might never be their enemy in another twenty years or ever, but helping the empire would strengthen their relationship and open doors for other needs that would arise. It’s the weakening of the empire, however, that would without doubt bare them to vulnerabilities they had not faced for quite a while – the first of which would be the Maghreb in discussion. And there are the barbaric Hausas that hated to give peace a chance. More or less they were not the independent state they used to be, they traded with others and still paid tribute to Songhai. There were menacing possibilities of invasion by other kingdoms all around. The time for standing alone with old ideas was well over.
“The other smaller kingdoms that would get a certain power as a result of weakening of Songhai, these are my concerns.” She said solemnly.
“Even if Songhai won this war it’s likely that it won’t be what it used to be regarding the might of the enemy it would have faced. Who knows, Songhai might never win this war, the Maghreb might continue attacking until they get their way here and beyond. They might be interested in more than gold and salt. With the discovery of large silver deposits underneath our soil, for how long will it take before that information reached the Maghreb, and what if they decided they want that too? We will soon be in Songhai’s shoes asking for similar help from other people that we don’t associate with.
“Now that was pessimistic of you.” Hamani was deeply thinking, creases showing on his forehead.
“Don’t tell me you believe Songhai can win the war. From what I heard there is a robust weapon in the hands of the Magharebans. I heard about it since before the Songhai envoys arrived this morning. Abu Sahel saw the weapon in Marrakech, his caravan helped transported it inland from the sea. He told me he had never seen something more sinister when he watched few demonstrations of how it worked. Of course, at that time we didn’t know that Songhai was going to be invaded, and using the same weapon.”
Hamani’s eyes went round…“You know all this.”…was all he could say.
“You now see my point? That is why I don’t believe Songhai stands a chance and if they are after resources you will agree with me that our silver will soon attract them also.”
“Then what is the point of us getting involved instead of preparing for our own defence?”
Galah loved the direction the whole discussion was taking. She knew Hamani could discern what was happening and ask the relevant questions.
“It opens our eyes to the reality. Imagine I go to father and started explaining to him what I learnt from Abu Saleh as the reason for our involvement, he would never understand. But either ways the most important thing is that we are taking part, as for Songhai’s victory over Maghreb, it is something we could only hope for, for our own sake.”
Hamani has heard a similar point. But the revelation disturbed him.
“The very little we are offering them suffices for the time being.”
Galah noticed his mood, but dismissed it and continued explaining her points; of course, he should know the truth for the whole kingdom’s sake. “It is only by getting involved that we will start making plans for ourselves. I hope for us soon to begin protecting ourselves against external aggressions, by making trusted allies and developing our economy, as well as putting all political machineries that will be needed in place.”
Galah spent considerable amount of time critically making an analysis of the decision her kingdom would make and its consequences to the patient listening Hamani. She foresaw chaos, because according to her belief the Songhai more or less bring the empire under peace, its weakness would awakened rivalries and thirst for domination. He felt she had a point at many instances, though he wished she was wrong in others.
Hamma was satisfied with the decision made by the Agadez council of chiefs. Giving their men training in desert fight, as well as lending them a few Agadez mercenaries to fight and give commands in the desert, atop the kingdom’s permission to use its lands and borders, sounded fine, considering everything. One day seemed liked a year in an enchanted city. Hamma wanted to be on his way after he was briefed by King Hassan on the outcome of the council’s decision
“We will start sending recruits as soon as we can make arrangements. And thank you so much for the help.”
When Hamma was summoned that morning he already was up, and had his escort and their horses ready for departure; in fact he was becoming anxious; time was running out for them if they were to start back on time. It wasn’t until after the bronze sun slightly rose above the far horizon of sand dunes (that weren’t there before last night) that the court messenger appeared at their guest quarters.
On arrival at the early court sitting, King Hassan, wearing similar clothes as yesterday, gladly wasted not much of their time. There weren’t many people, obviously the king was minding the hasty situation of Hamma’s request, and wanted to address him as soon as possible. After exchanging goodbye Salams, with Hamma saying the formal gratitude, the latter seek the king’s permission to leave at once.
In the stables Hamma, with his five escorts, mounted and prepare to leave. His mind was again twirling in a million directions. He decided to do first things first. He would return to Takedda and put arrangements in place to cover the needs arising as a result of the outcome of his mission to Agadez. Soldiers would have to be sent to Agadez in another three weeks maximum. He hoped Jano had similar or even better luck from his visit to the Hausa lords. If so then his eastern campaign is a successful one and he could return to the capital.
General Hamma turned at the sound of greetings to stare at the young man speaking. He wasn’t more than twenty and looked very tough. He was wearing a simple sleeveless white tunic, with a small turban covering his mouth and nose, protecting him from a dose of dust constantly carried by the wind, while the crown of his hair was exposed, spilling coiled hair.
“Wa alaikumus salam.” Hamma answered.
“My name is Hamani Razzak, I come to wish you safe journey.”
Or was I sent? Hamani thought. Galah wanted him to pay interest in the Songhai affairs. She made him believe, with rational reasoning, that this could be his first challenge to protect their kingdom as a new king. This conflict between Maghreb and Songhai is going to change a lot in the polity of the whole region; hence there is need for him to actively take part in it. If he did well history will forever remember him as a wise king, otherwise his rule will be a sad chapter in their people’s history.
“Thank you, Sir. Have we met before?” Hamma asked.
“No, but apparently this is going to be the first of many occasions we will be seeing each other, as I will be involved in the training of your recruits. I am a lieutenant with the king’s army, king’s nephew and his son-in-law.” He explained.
The enthusiasm in the lad’s voice, his confidence and clarity of expression caught Hamma and made him instantly liked him. They needed people that would actually want to help and are enthusiastic about it. Not some reluctant bunch that would be made to because they have no choice, while naturally they would rather not fight other people’s fight, even if that meant training their soldiers.
“Nice to meet you, lieutenant Hamani, I am sure with your help in giving our soldiers training in desert fight, we will be put at an advantage against the enemy. Your people are so brave, and you, lieutenant, certainly are up to the task of training our soldiers.”
Hamani took the complement nicely, and decided he should seek for some information first hand from Hamma, he imagined what adoration that will fetch him from Galah.
“You are too kind my lord. But as the king gave you his words, we won’t let you down.”
He cleared his throat.
“If I may ask, how formidable is the Maghreb weaponry, army and all. That information could prove useful to us as we prepare your men and ourselves.”
“Our sources are not very familiar about the so-called weapon.”
Hamma chose his words carefully. He didn’t want to scare their first allies in the direct line of battle.
“But from what we gathered they got it from the Christian kingdoms across the sea. All I can assure you lieutenant is that the weapon came from across the sea and that it’s not something more than what it is – a weapon. But then, whenever you go to a war you do carry a weapon of a sort, not a hoe.”
He laughed in attempt to make his comment light. Hamani nodded. That Abu Saleh of a merchant was right about the mightiness of the weapon, he could see the desperation of the general in his attempt to make the weapon seem smaller than it could be.
“And Sir, don’t you think transporting recruits from the capital to Agadez for training and back for fighting at the war front is somewhat cumbersome?”
Hamma decided Hamani was without doubt going to prove resourceful. The young man was brilliant and always asked the questions that did matter.
“No lieutenant, our trainees will come from a camp we raised in Takedda. It’s closer to this city and our Hausa allies will mostly see to the supply of these trainees.”
So the Hausas allied? Galah was going to like this, Hamani thought. Openly he said.
“So the soldiers we will be training will come from Hausa lands.”
Hamma did not betray his regrets of saying too much. In a delicate situation such as this one, as small as what he had just said could make a huge difference in what was to come. The tauregs didn’t trust the Hausas, nobody did, he knew that much. These were people that would invade neighbours at will, and easily betray trust. And if Hamani was related to the king, and was even about to marry his daughter, then there was no doubt that his opinion in the administration of the kingdom’s affairs mattered. He wasn’t expecting the king to change his mind about the council’s decision, but things could be tense enough to create inconveniences as a result of the revelation of disturbing facts.
“Yes.” He began carefully. “Let’s say the Hausa lords are paying their debt.”
He smiled charmingly at the young lieutenant.
Hamani smiled back. That’s much easier for them than allying I guess. He thought. He decided he has gotten much as can be possibly extracted from a general of Songhai Empire sweating to get them on their side of an imminent war. “May Allah be with you.”
Hamma shook the young man’s hand, happy the conversation was over.” Amen, see you at the front, lieutenant.”
Hamani pulled back to allow Hamma’s horse to throttle past, as his five escorts took to the rear and planked him in a stylish gallop.
If the Hausas allied, or were paying their debt as the general put it, they must have asked for something in return for that –that was almost for certain. That would only mean that Songhai was weak enough to concede to scavengers like Hausa lords in order to get that alliance of theirs. Even more so, it will mean that the Hausa lords are now free to roam. Who knows what they asked from Songhai. Galah’s scary theories were beginning to materialize. He needed to talk to her about it. Hamani sent a message to Galah before he returned back to the armoury to make an unscheduled inspection.
“Thank God you sent for me.”
Galah sat down sighing heavily like she was relieved of a camel worth of lord. In a way that was how heavy her anxiety was. She was waiting for words from Hamani to find out the little bit he might have gathered from the Songhai general.
“Why?” Hamani looked at the unkempt girl; she made no slight effort to look better as she came to meet him.
“It must have been several hours since mother began drilling me with lectures of how wrong it was for me to miss Aminata’s wedding. And God, I wasn’t even listening. I was hoping you get something from the Songhai people.”
“You missed Aminata’s wedding?”
“Ok. Don’t start, you too. I am rebuked at length by mother and I said I will go visit her in her matrimonial home.”
Hamani found it nearly unbelievable she didn’t attend the wedding.
“I thought you said you were going when I left you?”
“Yes I was, expect I couldn’t locate Fatto and I didn’t even know where Shattu’s house was. Look, I don’t want to talk about that. Have you met the general?”
“Yes I did.” Hamani let his disbelief go.
“After talking with him I learned that the Hausa kingdoms are paying their debt as he put it by supplying them with soldiers which apparently are coming here for training in another two to three weeks.”
“How interesting!” Galah laughed out loud.
“What kind of debt could that be? Could it be that they have total independence in return for their service to the empire during the war time by giving hand-out soldiers? Could it be that they no longer pay tribute for similar service? Whatever it is it has to be advantageous to the Hausas for them to agree into alliance; what is of concern, however, is that they will have a degree of freedom from the empire to do as they wish.”
“So it seems to me”
Hamani was getting it all from Galah’s perspective.
“Galah, your dark prophesy is coming into light, even the information on the weapon in the hands of the Saadi king is true, as you gather from your merchant. I have no choice but to listen to what you have to say on the issue.”
Galah smiled at Hamani like she never did before.
“Oh my husband-to-be, you always listen. I think what we need to do is gather more information on the situation in Hausa lands. Abu Saleh will be travelling up to Kano city, but he may not be returning in another month.”
“So what do we do? Are we waiting until that time?”
Galah scratched her forehead.
“I don’t know. I guess we can’t wait that long. Things are moving pretty fast.”
God save us from the Hausa war mongers, she silently prayed.