For three months of the year Kiswhahili, Arab and Indian dhows sailed west with the monsoons, t pregnant with goods with goods from East Africa. Three months later they returned, their African bounty exchanged for eastern luxuries. Belay played both sides of the coin like most Mombassan merchants, providing African goods to his eastern clients and eastern goods to his clients in the interior. One particular item whose value spread beyond Africa was ivory. The tusks of the massive tembos (elephants) were prized throughout the trade lands for their beauty and versatility. It was a common item of trade, its value fluctuating with supply and demand. This particular season it was invaluable for it was nowhere to be found.
Changa was assisting the bahari repairing Belay’s dhows when the ragged boy found him. The boy trembled as took in the imposing presence that was Changa Diop, former pit fighter and now merchant apprentice.
“Bwana Diop,” the boy stammered. “You must come quickly. Your friend Yusef is in trouble!”
Changa smirked as he reached for his shirt. “If I know Yusef it’s most likely the other way around.”
Changa stretched, his hard muscles shimmering with sweat. He wiped his hands on his cotton pants and pulled his shirt over his head. ” Take me to him.”
Changa and the boy ran from the docks to the marketplace. A crowd gathered at the center stalls, cursing and shouting at the object of their interest. Changa shoved his way through and emerged into a familiar scene. Yusef towered shirtless with his scimitar drawn surrounded by five men holding swords and daggers. There was no telling what the hulking Yao had done to set the men off, but Changa was sure it involved palm wine and insults of stature and manhood. Whatever the reason, Changa could not let his friend stand alone. He crept behind the man closest to him and grabbed his shoulders. He spun the man around, punched him across the jaw then caught his sword and dagger as he collapsed. Changa strode through the others before they could react and stood by Yusef.
“Kibwana (little man)!” Yusef bellowed. “What brings you here?”
“It seems you need my help,” Changa replied.
“Hah! This is nothing. There were ten of them a minute ago.”
Changa was in no mood for a fight. He stepped before Yusef and his eyes hardened.
“If you know who I am then you know how this will end. I suggest you go to your friends and forget whatever insults this man threw at you. It’s not worth your lives…”
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