Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 11


This entry is part 11 of 14 in the series Enemy Circles - Season One

Last Updated on September 29, 2019 by Memorila

Jomo, a young nomadic man was betrothed to a fellow clan’s girl, Bonajo, and they were to be married during the merriment of reuniting at the designated reunion camp in mountains of central Africa. Unfortunately, a huge war campaign was to prevent that simple thing from happening until after more than three years.

THE ENEMY

Some thousands of kilometres up northwest, at the other side of the vast Sahara, king al Rashid of Maghreb was having a court discussion with generals and council members over the issues that concerned him the most. The court interior made of glass and marble and exotic stone bespoke of the wealth and affluence of the sultanate.

Sultan Ahmad Al-Mansur Saadi who was the first king of the Saadi dynasty line, came to be known as The Great King, with both military and diplomatic strategies that was very impressive. His kingdom had seen formidable expansion since his instalment as the king. He expanded across the ocean into Abyssinia in the Christian continent, and the landmass of the Maghreb kingdom reached up to the borders of Misra (Egypt) from the east, and to the borders of Songhai at the edge of the Sahara to the south. He was an ambitious conqueror that kept on pushing on for new territories, driven by the quest for finance to support his political ambitions across the sea in the Christian kingdoms.

After conquering some lands across the sea and turning them into colonies of the Maghreb, king al Rashid turned his attention to the other destinations that would consolidate his power in the mini continent across the sea, and beyond the Sahara. It wouldn’t be easy, though, without alliance from the Christian super powers which had better weaponry and war technology than the traditional spear and swords the kingdom and its neighbours were still using. He made friends with particularly the far away kingdom of Anglo Saxon, ruled by a queen whose greed for gold and riches of the Sudanic continent made her render assistance generously.

Luckily for the king, Abyssinia was not very popular among the Christian powers; they saw it as a competition (and a great one for that matter) in discovery, wealth and the potentiality of dominance. It wasn’t hard for him to make friends with the court of Anglo-Saxon. The English were aware of the gold wealth of the Sudanic countries also; more precisely the Songhai empire, which Maghreb was very close to. An alliance was built based on Songhai’s gold in return for fire arms and support for the Abyssinian campaign and beyond. The strategic king saw the profit in the alliance with the Christian Anglo-Saxon, and went ahead with it – the Songhai fate was then sealed.

Today, the King intended to move to the first stage of his campaign against the Songhai Empire. It was a strategy from his side. He knew of the Askia’s wisdom, they had been in peace this long because both kingdoms chose to place Islamic brotherhood as a leverage. But that was not to assume someday things wouldn’t be different. He could tell that the Askia did not trust him entirely from the way the salt mines of Taghaza near the border were always heavily armed with his pathetic primitive army. It was only fair for the Askia to assume that the Maghreb king would be envious of the wealth generating mines. King al Mansur smiled at the thought of how easy it would be to scatter Askia’s soldiers like disorganized locusts.

Enemy Circles on Memorila
Enemy Circles on Memorila

“According to the original schedule of the campaign, the first stage was a month ahead,” the king listened to Judar Pasha, “but it was assumed that the information had already reached Gao by now.”

Pasha was confident it was going to be easy all through if they gave them that element of surprise and crush them with minimal effort.

“The Songhai Empire is ripe for taking,” Judar Pasha said arrogantly.

“They are weakened by famine for quite a while, and disease struck for almost a year.”

He knew that the Songhai government’s priority right now was dealing with that problem that militarizing would be near impossible.

“Correspondences reported that the Askia is struggling to raise an army and it was largely failing because the people are scared and are not giving the right response.”

King al Mansur chortled at the revelation. “Judar, tell us how long it will take to get me those mines. That is all I want to hear, not the travails of poor Askia’s war preparations.”

“This won’t take more than a week, Your Highness. The only difficult part of the campaign is crossing the Sahara. Once that was done everything else is over.”

al Mansur rose from the throne. “Then I can go on for my voyage to the Anglo.”

Ruling Songhai Empire was not his priority, nonetheless he felt it was necessary to take it now for the finances it can provide for him. So he assigned Judar Pasha to command the campaign. If there is one person he could trust with bringing down an empire, it was Pasha.

***

The sun was scorching hot; the Sahara only amplified the intensity of its heat. Commander Pasha knew that it was a matter of time before the soldiers started complaining, he ordered the troop to take a break. His thought was confirmed from the cheer his command was greeted with by the sluggish movement of the army.

The garrison was considerably large by number, but what made the troop more cumbersome and hence slow in progress, was the armada it was carrying. Trucks pulled by camels carried armoury that was altogether as strange in the landscape. The war luggage must have weighed more than the army itself. Sometimes Pasha wondered in his mind if the soldiers were trained enough to use the weapon at the war. There were the white mercenaries from the Anglo country to help the soldiers get familiar with the weapons, and he supervised most of the training sessions and was satisfied with their performance. But he was the kind that always does the last minute checking, and remained pessimistic until results reach a high probability of success.

A tent was quickly raised before Pasha’s feet touched the ground. It was not anything luxurious, just a means of shading from the scorching sun, while another team started a fire to boil tea in a small silver pot as well as baked some semi-dry meat.

The commander was served the tea as he busied himself over the map spread in front of him on the bare sand of the tent’s interior. They were not more than fifty miles away from the Taghaza mines; their first and most important target. He thought they would probably make another stop after twenty miles to recuperate his army’s strength before they march on and take the mine. They don’t want to be surprised by the Songhai armies at the Taghaza, so he carefully studied the map and drew a plan in his head on how to counter surprises before the march goes on to the city..

“Salam alaikum”

“Wa alaikumas salam.” Judar pasha answered, without raising his head from his concentrated studies.

“This is lieutenant Abbas reporting. I have just been informed by advance scouts that the Songhai armies are mobilizing somewhere inside the desert in the east not more than eighteen miles from our current position.”

The man said without expecting the commander to look at him at any moment of his presence in the tent. He hated the arrogant Portuguese man. Everyone knew that he was not even a man by virtue of his being castrated, but he was the most arrogant man in the whole Marrakech and Fez.

He was not wrong; Pasha only nodded his bended head as a sign of acknowledgement and dismissal altogether. He wasn’t expecting less. Everything was going perfectly as planned. Satisfied, Pasha reached for the tiny cup of tea dropped earlier on and took a sip, munching the salted meat. He grimaced and put it down, it was less than seventy degrees; too cold to be enjoyed.

Two bearded generals in dark djallabas popped inside chanting ‘salam’ in chorus, their robes and turbans’ tails flowed freely around them from the incessant wind.

Pasha looked at them; he knew that they were here to take orders, not to report, like the lieutenant.

“We will sleep here tonight. Make sure that the fire equipment are greased and safely kept away from any inflammable substance. That will mean no tea boiling near the armoury. Understood?”

The two generals nodded in acknowledgment.

“Good. Until tomorrow, we are at a safe distance from the mobilizing army, if that is what you are worried about.” He assumed the report of the Songhai army mobilization not far away from where they were was causing slight tension in the camp. But, as always, he had everything well checked. Even if they were expected now by the enemy it would take them at least two days to figure out the likely direction to find them. Therefore, basically, they were at the wrong time and place; too much for the enemy to beat at once.

The generals were infected by Pasha’s confidence, though they would rather someone else was in charge not the eunuch. They knew he had answers, though; they trusted him.

Seeing that his explanation sank into their minds, he turned back to his map. “Now, go and make sure everybody relaxes, and I need hot tea. Not this shit water.”

Two more white mercenaries crossed ways with the Moorish generals and entered Judar’s tent.

****

Taghaza mines were buried at the edge of the vast Sahara that cut across the edges of the Maghreb kingdom and beyond, somewhere in Misra. It was a rich salt deposit that brought flow of wealth to Ghana and Mali Empires that later transformed into the present Songhai Empire.

All mining activities have ceased since the news of a probable Maghreb invasion. Instead of the wealthy Jullas and caravans and servants that traded at the site from dawn to dusk, now only soldiers took their place. Hamani, with his one thousand best trained desert fighters, were positioned at the mines and ready to surprise the approaching Maghreb army. They knew of their approach and had relocated them from the Tessalit camp a couple of miles in the desert eastwards.

Jomo, a vanguard leader in Hamani’s army, had since abandoned schemes of running away and resort to defending his empire from the invaders. He was quite moved by Galah’s determination in saving her entire people, not just her family members. Her talks with him opened his eyes to the larger problem of not allowing the enemy to root in the empire. He decided it was best to handle the problem once and for all, and from the smart princess’s point of view, his service as a fighter was needed. Not that he had much option besides that, as he came to learn they won’t make it to Djenne and locate their family before the enemy appears at their nose. Also his relationship with Hamani and the trust he had reposed in him only obliged him to abandon running away and fighting for good.

Three days ago they received the news of the advancing enemy from the west as was predicted. They sent words to the capital and were mobilized to the mines as was planned. Everyone was in full spirit; if the prediction of the enemy’s moves came right, then without doubt they were at a better position to deal with them, knowing what they would do before they even do it. The enemy’s movement was slow and sluggish, as reported. Words were sent back from the capital that the bulk of the Songhai army would be ready for the enemy at the capital and for reinforcement if the enemy survived the Sahara skirmish.

Mandano was not enthusiastic fighting the war in spite of Jomo’s words of politics and need for defending one’s country for the greater good. He thought his friend was becoming increasingly delusional with all these ideologies he seemed to get overnight while they were training in Agadez. He spoke of wanting to marry his betrothed but not before making sure that his great grandchildren would be safe and free from being subdued by oppression from external powers. It was true they didn’t have many chances of succeeding, going by their original plan but Mandano wished Jomo was not speaking that nonsense.

Shagaro on the other hand gave too much trust to Jomo’s new found ideology. He too knew that their only chance of saving their family was by, if they could, stopping the general aggression that was putting everyone within the empire in a grip of fear.

Now at Taghaza, it was a reality facing the enemy, not a speculation anymore. The enemy was a breath away and neither Mandano nor Shagaro or Jomo could change that fact. There was only one option – fight the enemy and annihilate it at the mines and later look for their people.

Jomo even entertained the thoughts that perhaps his marriage was meant to take place in the city as a victorious warrior, rather than in the reunion camp. And who knows, maybe afterwards he would become someone important in the army, and have one of those fine sun-baked bricked houses in the city and live with his wife. He laughed at the absurdity of the thought.

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Series Navigation<< Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 10Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 12 >>


Bashir Kabir

Born, raised and studied in Kano State, Bashir Kabir has a degree in Physics and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Industrial Physics, all in Bayero University, Kano. He is married with a kid and currently works at Kano State Public Complaint and Anti-Corruption Kano.

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