Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 13

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This entry is part 13 of 14 in the series Enemy Circles - Season One

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.

A SUICIDAL MISTAKE

Soon after dispatching the messenger carrying the news of the events at the Taghaza mines, Hamani decided they needed to reach the city for reinforcement and offer firsthand advice on how to deal with the new weapon. There were too many soldiers to effectuate quick movement and timely arrival at the capital so, he selected fifty of the best fighters and headed for the capital while the remaining stayed in case more of the Maghreb army were coming that way or fleeing as the case may be. The selected fifty included Jomo, Mandano and Shagaro.

Time pressed and so was their journey – it went on without resting. Jomo’s hopes were shattered with the discovery of the deception of the enemy. They were certain that the bulk of the enemy was not the one at the Taghaza battle. It would only mean that they succeeded in reaching the empire’s capital and hence wreck the horror he dreaded. Before Hamani decided for reinforcement, Jomo told him the need for him to go to the capital. Hamani understood the warrior he came to like so much. Things were spiralling out of control and these were different situations from the original plans. He decided on the reinforcement idea, with the backed intention of helping Jomo locate his people and help them where they could.

Hamani realized if the enemy was at the capital now, then their part of the campaign had expired in neither victory nor failure. They succeeded in annihilating enough number of the Maghreb army at Taghaza. The battle at the capital was not theirs to fight, so he could afford to help a friend in need. He remembered Galah and how he missed her so much. He was sure if she was there she would help with her wise intelligences. He also felt sad that he consented to her travelling to Maghreb – the country of the people his army slaughtered. The sooner he concluded this mission and returned to Agadez the better. He wanted nothing in the world but have a discussion session about what he experienced.

He knew what the weapon could do; he also knew its limitation. If Galah’s journey to Maghareb proved successful, then by the time he returned she should be able to make a sound decision putting their knowledge together.

***

As the sun neared the western horizon, Pasha eventually crossed the river by the time Askia Ishaq and his entourage reached Tondibi. There, in front of him was the largest army he had ever seen. In the Portuguese war, the enemy’s number was about double that of the Maghreb but this was like twelve times more than their number. He was not hopping to see the remaining number he circumvented at Taghaza, knowing very well that they were large enough to annihilate the battalion he sacrificed at the altar of deception. He knew that there is no how this amount of army could move this fast from Taghaza after taking care of his other army, then the hard and scary truth hit like a bag of sand; it could only mean that this army had been here all the times and those that handled the Taghaza unit was a different battalion.

Enemy Circles on Memorila
Enemy Circles on Memorila

When he turned to address his men, he found high frequency shivering djallabas and fear that was thick enough to suffocate its hosts. “Listen,” he began simply. “They are several times more than our number, no big deal. But we have the weapon they don’t have. If we keep our calm and do what needs to be done, we will all return to our families safe and wealthy, otherwise we all die here and there is nothing I can do to save your scary behinds.” Everyone listened; Pasha’s speech was not inspiring and not helping the situation at hand.

He ignored those pathetic moors and turned to the handful few of the white mercenaries. Those saw to the demonstration of the utilization of the cannons and the harquebus their governments provided to the Maghreb, and also came to see for themselves the richness the Maghreb promised in return of the firearms. Dressed in musketeer uniforms, they too were struck by fear at the immensity of the blackness and multitude of the enemy they came to fight. But, they were doing a better job retaining their calm. Pasha started to feel annoyed.

“Not you,” he said in Spanish, addressing the white mercenaries. “Everything depends on how effective we use your weapons. It is our only chance, and you know how to use it better than anybody here. Tell me if you have any suggestions on how we go about the situation.”

A less frightened musketeer stepped forward. “We must never charge into them, no matter what, we have to stay here and pray they too didn’t charge at us en mass.” He said.

“You mean we pray? No war is fought by doing nothing. What kind of nonsense is this?” Pasha said irritatingly.

“If we charged at them they will easily swallow us with their number, likewise if they decided to charge all at once.”

“That is nonsense. What do we do then?” Pasha was getting irksome.

The white harquebusier ignored Pasha’s irritation. “The only option left to us is to use the harquebus and the cannons to slaughter them as we stand where we are. The weapons range is good enough to be effective between here and some meters to where they are standing now. We can annihilate them down to a reasonable number if they step into the range at a number which the weapon can handle. It is our best shot before we attempt to make a contact.”

Judar Pasha turned back from the white harquebusier. The sight of the Songhai army was too large to make sense of. Did these people manufacture soldiers?

***

Hamma went and met Askia, greeted him and conducted him direct to the Spartan tent at the other end. The general quickly went through the strategy with the emperor and received his approval over everything. There were more than three hundred and thirty five thousand soldiers at the front, more than two hundred thousand lances and swords, and more than four thousand cattle.  But the best factor at the front was the morale that was high with the expectation of imminent victory.

The sight of the emperor at the warfront did indeed boast the morale of the soldiers that was already high at the shrunk sight of the enemy. They believed not even their mysterious weapon could favour them, the general saw to it that the information of the fallacy about the rumour concerning the magical weapon was well circulated at the warfront, in the barracks and beyond to Takedda camp.

The sounds of tambours made the soldiers’ blood hot and galloped in their veins with fervour – it was happening. Soon every soldier was ready and in line. Askia Ishaq stood in front of the sea of men to give an address.

Salam alaikum, my people. This day marks a historic point in our history, when we have to defend ourselves against invaders whom we shared similar religion. It is their selfish interest that makes them want to take what is rightfully ours, and we say no, it won’t happen.

There was a thunderous uproar that was accompanied by mass pounding of lances and spear on the ground. It took some moment before it died away and the Askia resumed speaking.

“We heard that they have a magical weapon that paralyses a soldier and renders him invalid or unleash untold pain and suffering. I am happy now to relate to you that it was all a lie. Our soldiers that were not up to one tenth of your number fought a division of the enemy’s army at Taghaza and annihilated it completely, in spite of the so-called magical weapon.

“It was our effort to stop them in the great Sahara and avoid bringing the war into towns and cities, but they deceived us and reached up to here. You can all see them where they stand. But, this is as far as they would ever go.”

Uproar broke.

“Let’s crush them with the might of our multitude as we did in Taghaza, Let’s make them run back to their selfish king to tell him who we are, let’s give them a reason to never want to come back here, ever!

***

Pasha’s messenger returned from Songhai’s camp. He nodded his head in negation when Pasha only looked at him questioningly.

The commander said nothing as he stood up. There was still enough sun at the horizon but perhaps in another two hours it won’t be there. The maddening roar from the Songhai camp was getting onto his nerves; he could also see its effect in the eyes of his men. It was a last string for him to send a request of surrender from the Songhai army. He thought the messenger would never return alive.

“Formation!” he bellowed in Spanish.

The white harquebusiers with the ballistic launchers moved forward and took position. Their Moorish counterpart covered the second tier. At the back were the Moorish infantry with the caballeros.

“We will fight from this position and if we die we die here, together.” Pasha shouted. He took his position too, a harquebus at hand. The waiting began.

***

The Mandinka guards took to the rear of the Songhai army where the emperor’s pavilion was planted. Hamma assigned Kungeri to commander the shooters and Toure the lancers.

Hamani, with his fifty men arrived just as offensive were about to lunch, and Hamma assigned him to be in charge of the camel riders. As Jomo and about twenty of the new arrival were horse mounted, they blended with the cavaliers.

Hamma took Hamani straight to the Askia and introduced him.

“He is responsible for the success of the desert campaign,” Hamma added with admiration.

Askia’s genuine smile was sparkling with white teeth. “There are no enough words to thank you, lieutenant. I assure you that this empire is indebted to you.”

Hamani looked tanned from the heat of the desert.

“May Allah extend your reign; I am only doing what we promised we will do.” He looked at Hamma, the older general nodded approval. “From what experience we have with the enemy at Taghaza, the enemy’s weapon has limitations so I suggest we device a wise means of exhausting the enemy’s weapon to incapacitation.”

Askia thought carefully. “Does the equally wise lieutenant have any idea?”

***

The beasts trudged with deepening rumble as whips cracked sending them forward in the direction of the enemy. In less than a minute the bovine gather momentum large enough to push down the formidable walls of Kano city and charge forward.

As soon as Hamani had a discussion with the Askia, large cattle were gathered. His counselling was easily taken by the Askia, seeing how he handled the Saharan operation well. Not many could see the idea behind the plan, but Hamma fully supported him and gave no room for politics to have a say.

Pasha saw the approaching mayhem. There was nothing the stampede could not bring down. It was a formidable strategy. He waited until the cattle were within excellent rage before he ordered the ballistic team to send the first volley as the beasts closed the gap between the two enemies. The sounds of the cannon were maddening and it further spooked the beasts. Pasha also ordered the harquebusier to open fire.

Gory sight of exploding animals mixed with fire and acrid smell of gun powder overpowered the animals and made them turn back where the threat was only the whipping. The Songhai army saw what was happening. The weapon the enemy came to unleash was something scary. It was fire and thunder. There were sparks of fire and a loud sound that threatened to deafen anybody standing nearby. And now that the animals were made to change course, the threat multiplied.

Hamma saw the fear in his men and knew that soon it would manifest in their minds and create fright. With the cattle charging right back, he had to do something quick. There were murmurs from the likes of Gabda of the absurdity of the plan from the beginning.

The soldiers sprang from their formation trying to allow the stampeding cattle to bypass them. The size of the army was large enough that the cattle turned its formation into disaster. Several thousands of the Songhai army died in the stampede before the cattle finally passed.

Soon after, the army regrouped and prepare to charge the enemy.

“Attack!” Hamma shouted without allowing enough time for fear to grip his army.

The shooters were making excellent job sending rain of arrows into the enemy’s formation as they charged. So far the latter was not responding although a couple of dozens were falling like Neem tree leaves during harmattan.

Hamma got a scraping from a bull’s horn; blood was streaming down the side of his stomach. He sadly looked at Toure’s corpse grotesquely disfigured by the stampeding cattle that madly routed in to the nearby bush. He looked back at the enemy line and saw that there weren’t much casualty enough to satisfy him at this very crucial beginning of the offensive. He barked orders and at the same time said soothing words to reform his army. The loudness of the weapon just used by the enemy was not insignificant as they would want to believe. Sometimes when you reassure yourself too much, you lost touch with reality and it was the time no matter how brief, to play politics. Gabda thought and somewhat said that Hamani was an incompetent to regard the weapon as nothing to be afraid about.

Songhai soldiers were shaking from the surprise they received. Those that were not wounded by the stampede were stupefied by the thunderous sounds of the magic the enemy just performed. Morale plummeted down like sand in an hour glass. But they threw lances and shot arrows like their lives depended on them, and it did.

Hamani manoeuvred his camel to where Hamma was standing.

Hamma looked at him furiously. “What was this? Why haven’t you said anything about this when you described the weapon? I can understand that you didn’t want to scare us, but I am entitled to know the naked truth”

Hamani ignored the chiding. “They didn’t use those thunderous balls at Taghaza; I am seeing them for the first time.”

“It is not going to be any different.” Hamma’s anger was subsiding. “We will not allow them move any further. We will attack them and consume them by our multitude that is our only hope. Let’s go and meet the emperor.” Hamani called Jomo; Kungeri joined them as they moved to where the emperor was standing.

It was like the Mandinka guards didn’t allow a single cow came near the emperor.

“What was that?” He asked Hamma like he knew everything about it.

“My emperor they are using it for the first time. It was not used in Taghaza” Hamma answered.

“So we are looking at two deadly weapons, one not so deadly, the other, in my opinion very deadly. Tell me you have another plan.” The emperor asked expectantly.

“We don’t have any other option but to push our might against the enemy. We will lose some few thousand men under that evil contraption of their weapon, but we will prevail due to our number.”

Askia Ishaq thought carefully.

“I say we don’t do that at all.” Wazir Gabda interjected. “Hamma you have been doing well in this war campaign until now. Look at how your idea of using the cattle turned out.”

It was not my idea, he wanted to say “This is not the first time we apply this strategy.” Hamma answered the Wazir levelly.

“This is the first time we are faced with a weapon such as the one we have just witnessed. Why didn’t you put that into account while you decided which strategy to use?”

Hamma looked at the emperor, but the latter said nothing.

“If we stand where we are the range of their weapon can reach us and they will annihilate us one soldier at a time. But if we pushed all our number against them, it will be a matter of little casualty on our side before we overwhelm them due to our number.” He pleadingly explained to the emperor.

“You don’t know about that.” Gabda instead answered. “War is all about wisdom and knowing what to do – when to act and when not to. Can you tell us for sure if, as we attack them using all our might as you put it, their powerful weapon is not capable of wiping us all at once?”

“I cannot but from the demonstration we have just seen it is unlikely to happen so, as we saw some portion of the cattle still reached them and wounded few of their soldiers in spite of the weapon. Assumed that would be the amount of us that would reach them. Considering our number that small percentage of our bulk will be large enough to handle them.” Hamma said.

“Exactly you cannot, so don’t make suggestions whose consequences you cannot begin to think of bearing. If the moors annihilate this army how long will it take before your Takedda camp supply the most urgently needed army to protect the capital and the emperor?”

Askia Ishaq looked at Hamma questioningly. “We cannot do that which you suggested general. Let’s instead send some portion of the army down to charge at the enemy. We still outnumber them and can overpower them particularly with the help of archers.”

“If I may speak, His Highness?”

Everyone looked at Jomo. He didn’t feel intimidated, so he continued. “I was among those that fought at Taghaza besides our commander.” he pointed at Hamani. “The strategy the general suggested was what we did and it worked for us within the shortest period of time. We had only few casualties and even fewer fatalities when we descended our numbers on them, but we overpowered them eventually. I think it is a good strategy that can be applied here.”

“I thought the general said there weren’t those hell balls at the Taghaza battle?” Gabda asked Jomo contemptuously.

“Yes, there weren’t those, but it doesn’t matter…”

“No it does.” Gabda cut Jomo. “And who are you to even speak after the emperor decided?”

Hamma jumped into Jomo’s rescue. “You…” he said to Jomo. “Come with me” with that he carted away Hamani and Jomo from the pavilion before the Wazir found a way to implicate them.

***

“What do you think they are deciding?” Pasha asked his small council. After the stampeding cows passed, fear was firm within the Maghreb army. If some thousand cattle or less could threaten to destabilize them, hundreds of soldiers would do that in a blink. He saw the wisdom in the mercenary’s advice that they pray the Songhai army didn’t take them in their totality.

“Whatever they are doing let’s hope they are not trying to take us head on.” The white mercenary said in a rapid Spanish.

Pasha sighed heavily; fear was beginning to register on his expression. “You mean we don’t stand a chance?”

“Absolutely not” The harquebusier delivered the cold truth. “They are too many, if they decided to do that we won’t stand beyond the first half hour. The river trapped us from behind.” His voice went sullen. “We don’t have many options but wait and see what happens next.”

***

The few men escorting the women were having a tough time controlling the hysteric chicks. They jumped at the slightest movement in bushes; they threw stuffs, panicked at scrambling lizards, only to return back laughing and joking about their frayed nerves. But now, not without good reason, the women were freaking out at the city of Djenne. They were greeted with the news of the battle in Tondibi that was currently fought from the refugees that were trying to put distance between themselves and the war. It meant their destination – Tondibi was off limit, as the war is currently fought at the riverside town. It also meant they don’t know what to do at the moment, so hysteria was a good option.

Marra was up and well for someone convalescing, and was beginning to wish she remained with the men instead of this shrilly women that spent more time shouting than making the right decisions. “We shouldn’t have come this way.” She told Bonajo.

“Where else should we have gone?” Bonajo was getting angry with the way they seemed to possess not a single speck of luck since the beginning of this unfortunate war.

Marra looked around, pandemonium was not only among her women clans members, and apparently the news of the war was rapidly spilling in the city. The highly populous city was a mad house, everyone was trying to rescue whatever valuable possessions they had. Veiled women screamed and freaked and darted about crazily. “We come all this way to witness this.” She said sadly.

Bonajo stood as she watched a scholar carted books and documents on a mule cart and headed in the opposite direction to Tondibi. A wealthy Wangara – a Julla, was carting gold and other valuables and left town too, with his family. “What do we do?” She asked, not expecting any satisfying answer.

They sat on a mud bench and sadly watch the spectacle that was Djenne.

***

Rain began to fall as a shroud of darkness blanketed the riverside. Pasha was apprehensive the Songhai army seemed to recover from the first shock and from his point of view, it seemed like nothing had happened to the vast army. The cannon fire didn’t scatter them as was his best hope. The cattle did nothing to the uncountable army that seemed to be sprouted from the sand of the Sahara too.

The army appeared resolute and determined by not budging to the new weapon. He thought the first jolt of surprise the weapon gave would disorganize the enemy, but there they were, like nothing has happened. Were they preparing to attack en mass? He had at the back of his mind, the pessimism of losing this battle tormenting him. He knew it was the end of his pathetic life that had equal share of luck and bad luck. He might be a high ranking Maghreb army officer but it didn’t change the fact that he was a eunuch, a castrated freak that cannot satisfy a woman, or father a child – not that he even knew what it was like to desire a woman. Many times he overheard soldiers discussing and bragging about their sexual escapades to their friends. It must have been something worthy of pride for a man to be able to satisfy a woman. Worst of it all was the fact that, in spite of the fear and respect his men had for him, he knew of the contempt and disgust they regarded him with as a eunuch commanding real men. That was all about to come to an end now.

Everyone was soon soaked in the rain. Pasha thought even the smartly dressed white mercenaries looked pathetic, not to mention the djallaba-laden moors shivering from the cold of the rain and the fear of the forest of enemy soldiers at their front. His grey eyes narrowed into slits that resembled the colour of the camel riders’ uniforms on the enemy side.

The camel riders unnerved him. The beasts run surprisingly fast for their bulk. The army seemed to have every element – cavaliers, camel riders, infantry that were too many to count and all sorts of fighters, with all kinds of weaponry and assorted war uniforms. It was like the whole empire was there to fight them. He could only perceive the emperor’s pavilion and wished he could have some kind of talk with him, even though his response to the offer of surrender was that there would be no talks and certainly no negotiations none whatsoever.

The white mercenaries suggested he should negotiate some peace agreement of some sort. He knew they were trying to save their European behinds; nothing would be more unpleasant, though, to king al-Mansur more than coming back without what he wanted – victory and gold. But Pasha wanted that peace badly – if only that was possible. As much as he harboured all kinds of insecurity, he still wanted to live. He didn’t want to die here.

Almost instantly he heard the shouts and the advance of the Songhai army – like the whole earth was rolled forward. He was so frightened out of his skin that his bladder voluntarily slackened and he pissed urine in his trousers. How could he stand there, daydreaming like a teenage girl having a first crush and not noticed when the enemy began charging? He shook off and barked orders instantaneously, thanking the good God that he was already wet from the rain so nobody would see he peed.

“Cannons!”

The ballistic team started sending volleys of the deadly technology at the wall of human and animal flesh and bone as it advanced to consume them. Pasha was so frightened he wanted to turn and run right into the river. He knew that the mass of the Songhai army and the determination with which they approached in spite of the firearm was too apocalyptic to be deterred by the few cannons in his possession.

When Pasha began taking steps backward he saw an opening through the charging soldiers. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing. The larger bulk of the Songhai was still standing where they were; the charging expedition was not the whole army.

He madly broke into laughter. “Take them down!” He ordered with more madness. “Harquebus!” there was chance, he instantly knew and all resolve returned.

***

Hamma saw his men slaughtered one by one by the fire weapon. Since he couldn’t convince the emperor to take the only strategy he believed was capable of delivering success, he wasn’t going to make any suggestion either. Everything he had been doing to ensure the success of this very day was thrown into the winds by some court politician that knew nothing of war and its strategy.

“General, you have to order the whole army to charge or else it will be a slaughter to be told thousands of years after.” Hamani urged the general.

Hamma was very furious and dejected. “Save your people before it is too late.”

Hamani hesitated not, he knew that at the rate the moor are wasting the Songhai army it’s a matter of time before, as Hamma said, it was too late to act. He turned to Jomo. “Go find your family people, you too are free. This is where our journey comes to an end. Ma’assalam.”

Jomo wasted no time saying goodbye. He cantered his horse to where he saw Mandano and Shagaro standing. The two drenched like socked rags. “We got to go, now.”

Mandano excitedly purred his horse, not waiting until Jomo reached the end of his wording.

“Why?” Shagaro asked.

“There is no hope. Let’s reach Djenne it should be few hours of ride from here. That’s where we stand a chance of finding the clan”

The three flanked the dense formation of the army in a dexterous gallop, and took to a trodden path that disappeared inside millet farms.

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Series Navigation<< Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 12Jomo: Enemy Circles (Novel) – Season One, Episode 14 >>

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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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