The Right of Ushindi
The Forest City of Jambazi
Beyond the river lands to the south was the peninsula of M’situ. The entire region was a vast forest. At the center of this forest was the great tree that the region was named after. The ancient tree, M’situ, was the size of a mountain. The city of Jambazi was built upon the trunk and branches of this mighty immortal tree. It was a network of huts and structures that extended outward and loomed above the forest.
Beneath the great tree, within the forest below, was the headquarters of the Farasi guild. It was a fortress hidden among the leaves. The Farasi were a legion of bounty hunters. Samael didn’t have a police force. If one wanted justice, they had to hire a Farasi to get it. The guild was the governing body that distributed the bounty contracts. It was run by Praug Lessa. A rotund man with short white dreadlocks that stood atop his head in the shape of an afro. He sat at a table enjoying his favorite dish. He was conducting the annual meeting of the guild. All of the active Farasi were gathered in the great hall.
The hall was loud with chatter until Praug banged his fist on the table. His bowl bounced into the air and he caught it before its contents spilled out. “Silence, you damn animals!” He yelled out. The hall fell quiet. “The contract on Adeola M’falme has been open for too long. The emperor is demanding his sister’s head and I have nothing to offer him.”
The many skilled warriors hung their heads.
“This is the most expensive bounty in the history of the guild. A lot of orbs are on the table.” Praug was visibly angry. “Yet none of you can capture or kill her? Kupanga is threatening to take back his deposit! I want results and I want them yesterday!!!”
The entrance into the hall slid open. A guard walked in and then collapsed face first onto the floor. Everyone snapped their attention to the doors and grabbed for their weapons. A woman with wild curly purple hair entered. She strolled towards Praug’s table as the sea of warriors between them parted.
Praug Lessa shook his head, “I cannot believe you would show your face here princess. We have been looking for you.”
Adeola casually sat down at the table across from him. “Well. I invite anyone in this hall to attempt to collect that reward.” She glanced at the guards behind him and they removed their hands from their sheathed daggers.
“What brings you to M’situ, Adeola?”
“Something is going to happen and when it does. The emperor will reach out to the guild for help. I need the guild to ignore his plea.” Adeola reached onto his plate and stole a morsel of meat. She popped it into her mouth. “You have been shouldering a great deal of Kupanga’s dirty work lately. Enough to indulge in a full plate of meat.”
“His Highness pays well.” Praug grinned.
“And what if I paid better?” She said as she chewed.
“I doubt that a banished, fugitive, princess could match the wealth at your brother’s disposal.”
“That wealth is about to change hands. And when it does, I will remember those who stood beside me.”
“I doubt that you have the strength to remove our beloved ruler from the throne.” Praug leaned forward. “Here is the thing. The way your brother runs Samael. It pushes people to act out. A hungry populace is prone to desperation. More crimes and more contracts for the guild to collect. Kupanga’s oppression is good for business.”
Adeola bit her lip. “The Farasi have fallen so far. Corrupted by greed.”
“Looking back on your freelancing here. I am surprised you lasted for so long. Everybody thought that bringing all of your contracts in alive was a sign of how skilled you were. Living bounties pay out more than dead ones. But it turns out, you just didn’t have the stomach to slay your prey.”
“You do not want to make an enemy of me, Praug.”
“Your threats hold no weight here, Adeola. We all know that you are no killer. Thus, you have nothing to threaten me with.”
“So, you will not stand aside?” She asked.
“No, whatever you are planning. If the emperor contracts us to aid him, we will stand against you.”
Adeola stood. “Fine.” She turned her attention to all of the Farasi assembled in the hall. “Praug Lessa! I challenge you for leadership of the guild! I invoke the right of Ushindi!”
“You expect me to abide by that ancient law? Bah!” He laughed. “You have lost your wits, Adeola.”
“The way of the guild is strength. It is the same law that you used to take the guild from Shaka Rahn. You slain him in this very hall.” Adeola overturned the table, spilling his food and drink all over him. “Will you accept or are you a coward?!”
Praug jumped to his feet. He was angered and barring his teeth. “You are truly a fool princess. By issuing the challenge, I get to lay down the conditions.”
“Out with it!” She snapped at him.
“I am an old man. So, you will fight the champion of my choosing.”
“I figured as much.”
“I was not done.” Praug grinned. “This will be a death match. Let us see what you value more. My seat or your virtuous pledge not to take a life. But I am not a monster, you are free to forfeit at any time.”
Adeola grimaced. Praug knew her too well. He knew that she didn’t kill and was using that knowledge against her. “I accept your terms, Praug Lessa.”
It took time for the tables and other furnishings to be removed from the hall. The many Farasi formed a large circle on the perimeter. Adeola waited within the ring. She made eye contact with a helmeted woman in the crowd. Her attention was drawn away when Praug entered into the ring followed by a cloaked figure.
Praug had a smug grin on his fat face. “Adeola, I present to you your opponent.”
“Adeola?!” The cloaked woman said in surprise. She removed her cloak to reveal herself. She wore a yellow monk’s robe with large beads around her neck. Her hair had grown in but she still painted the blue Buurtan patterns onto her face. The sleeves of her robe were torn off and she wore metal gauntlets on her wrists with chained blades attached to them.
“Agulaz the Exile?!” Adeola squinted.
“The Princess?” Agulaz replied as she raised an eyebrow.
“You hired Agulaz?!” Adeola asked Praug.
“She is an incredible fighter. I would be a fool not to put her to work.” Praug said casually.
“I collected two bounties on Agulaz when I worked here. She is a criminal and a psychotic murderer!”
“Some of my best friends are psychotic murderers!” Praug yelled back at Adeola.
“I am standing right here.” Agulaz mumbled under her breath as they spoke of her.
Praug tapped Agulaz on the arm. “Go on.”
“Go where?” She asked him.
“Go and kill her!”
“You did not say that I would be fighting the Princess. She has defeated me more than once.” Agulaz shrugged, “and this is a death match. I am not dying for you.”
“Get it done. I will pay you double your usual rate.”
“Triple?!” Praug growled.
“Triple or you can fight her yourself!”
“Bah! Fine, triple!”
Agulaz strutted forward. “Now, we are speaking the same language. Triple is worth dying over.” She licked her lips.
Praug huffed. “Let the contest begin!”
“Nothing personal princess!!!” Agulaz said as she jumped and twirled in the air. She released the blade in her right hand and it sailed in an arc towards Adeola. Adeola took a small step to her right and turned so the chained blade missed her by inches. A slight breeze, from the momentum of the dagger, ruffled her purple curls. She repeated the move to dodge the next blade as it slashed at her.
Agulaz wisely kept her distance. She understood that she was no match for Adeola in a close quarters match. Adeola had mastered the Broken Cup, the Executioner’s Fist, and the M’falme fighting styles. She could restrain a foe with minimum effort, kill with the slightest touch, or break an opponent to pieces in a flurry of violent strikes. There was a reason why she was regarded as the strongest fighter on Samael. Adeola had so many tools to deal with an adversary. But they were all tools that required her to be close to utilize.
Adeola dodged Agulaz’s attacks. She wasn’t advancing from her position and each missed attack slashed at the floor beneath her feet. She focused on the next incoming attack. Adeola stepped to her right and grabbed hold of the chain attached to the blade. She whipped the chain and Agulaz was yanked forward. Agulaz spread her feet to regain her balance. There was a tug of war between them. The muscles in their arms tensed as they struggled against each other.
One of the many spectators pulled out a cylinder from beneath his armor. He inserted a dart with a paralyzing agent into it. Praug had a discussion with several members of the crowd before the match. He passed out these darts to them and promised that they would all share in the considerable bounty on Adeola’s head. The man discretely held the tube to his lips and blew into it. The dart sailed through the air towards Adeola. She was too distracted by her fight with Agulaz to even notice it. But somehow, the dart bounced off of Adeola’s skin without penetrating. He thought that maybe it was defective. He tried another and yielded the same result. Other members of the crowd also attempted to sneak her with the darts.
Praug noticed the many darts littering the floor behind Adeola. What in Gehenna? He thought.
Adeola yanked Agulaz forward and poked her in the chest with a finger. Agulaz’s body went limp as her eyes rolled into the back of her head. By the time she collapsed onto the floor, she wasn’t breathing. This was Udongo Sipu, the Executioner’s Fist. Adeola turned her attention to Praug. “We are done here. The Farasi guild is now under my…”
“Not so fast.” He interrupted her mid-sentence. “You have a varying array of techniques at your disposal. I need proof that you actually killed her.” He pulled a dagger from a scabbard on his belt then flung it. It stabbed the floor between Adeola’s feet. “It is a fine blade. I should know. I ran it through Shaka Rahn’s heart all those summers ago.”
Adeola gazed down at Agulaz’s motionless body. “She is obviously dead. This is pointless.”
“Then it will make no difference if you stab her a few times. Let us call it tradition.” Praug grinned. “Unless of course, You are trying to play me.”
Adeola crouched down next to Agulaz. She pulled the dagger from the floor then flipped it in the air and caught it. She held the dagger over her head with the business end pointed down at Agulaz. She stared down at her felled opponent for some time before speaking to Praug. “You are far cleverer than you look, Praug.” She exhaled then tossed the dagger over her shoulder. “I was hoping to end this without pointless complication.”
“I did not rise to where I am by being a fool, your highness.” Praug said sarcastically.
Adeola called out to the helmeted woman in the crowd. “Sadae? You are up.”
“As you wish princess.” Sadae responded. The mysterious woman disguised in armor from the crowd was Sadae Kubwa. Among the Terrans, she and her sisters were known as the Daughters of Death. Powerful warriors who used unique weapons. She produced a white crystal ball from beneath her cloak. This glowing orb was used to create invisible forcefields. This was the device that blocked the darts before they struck Adeola. Due to her weapon of choice, Sadae was known as Phantom Shield.
She held the orb up above her head and a wave of force tore the roof off of the guild headquarters. Lights shined down from an airship above and soldiers descended down into the hall. These were warriors from the front lines. They had fought the Terrans and lived to tell the tale. They landed into the hall with their charge-blades at the ready. Guns were forbidden on the home world. It was said that to use such weapons on Samael was to disgrace one’s self before Mars and to be cast into Gehenna. The soldiers herded the Farasi together.
“Drop your weapons.” Sadae commanded.
The Farasi all stared at the soldiers. They had more numbers but the charge-blades that the soldiers wielded were far superior to the weapons they held. One of the Farasi pulled a curved blade from a scabbard on her hip. She gripped the hilt tightly as she glared at the soldiers. There was tension in the air and she looked like she was ready to pounce. The soldiers stood their ground and waited. The standoff could’ve erupted into a violent scene at any moment. The Farasi warrior dropped her sword onto the floor. The other Farasi followed her lead and tossed away their arms as well.
Adeola let out a relieved breath then grinned at Praug. “I tried to do this the easy way. I told you that you chose the wrong side. You could have made out handsomely on this deal.”
“Bah!” Praug crossed his arms and turned his head away. A soldier approached him and placed a block around his wrists. She walked him away.
Adeola crouched down then tapped the center of Agulaz’s chest. The woman suddenly sprang to life; coughing and rolling around on the floor. “Try not to move too much or…” Agulaz vomited violently. “Or that.”
“Damn you, Adeola.” Agulaz said before having a coughing fit.
Adeola patted her on the back. “Come, there is a cell awaiting you aboard the Hadiyada Aiyaha.” She picked Agulaz up by the arm and handed her off to the soldiers.
Sadae approached Adeola. “Are you certain you do not want us to stay on Samael? Our forces could take the palace without issue.”
“Removing the Farasi from the board and removing Kupanga from power, are two drastically different things.” Adeola responded without pause. “If the military gets involved, a civil war may erupt.”
“You have a plan.”
“Yes.” Adeola looked to the Farasi being loaded onto transport ships. “And this is the beginning of it. We are so close to taking back our world.”
Sadae took Adeola’s hand and opened it. She placed a crystal into Adeola’s palm. “I will pray for your victory.” Sadae closed Adeola’s hand around the jewel. “Know that you have War Chief Daacad’s support. If the worst should happen, you can call on us.”
Those words made the crystal in Adeola’s palm feel all the heavier. It was a long-range communications device. With but a word, she could call down the full fury of the military upon Kupanga. Every warship in the armada was at her call. But that wasn’t the plan. Mazzarath would be decimated by such an action. She gestured for Sadae to take the device.
Sadae took a step back from Adeola. “I was commanded by the War Chief herself to deliver that trinket to you. She also commanded me not to take it back.”
Adeola shook her head. “Daacad knows me a bit too well.”
Sadae smiled, “yes. Throw it into to sea or stomp it underfoot. But do not hand it to me.”
Adeola gazed down at the device. As much as she wanted to destroy it, she couldn’t. She would be a fool to throw away such a powerful weapon. No matter how much she feared using it. A part of her felt ashamed as she stored the crystal into a pouch that hung from her hip.
Sadae walked towards one of the transports. “Do not look so glum. We all believe in you.” Sadae stopped and turned around. “Please, save our world princess Adeola.”
Adeola lifted her chin and straightened her spine. So much was riding on her and she had to put on a brave face. “I will not fail.”
Sadae bowed her head. “Good fortune, princess.” She boarded the transport and the port closed behind her. Adeola watched as the ship lifted off into the sky. She took a steadying breath. The first stage of her grand plan was done. Now she had to prepare for whatever fate had to throw back at her.