Fallow: Part Three

The Farmer exited his back door, striding across his barren field to the woods. His Wife and Daughter emerged from the brush, both draped in heavy camouflage jackets, his daughter tucked under his Wife’s protective grip. In Her right hand she held the handgun. She put the gun in her jacket pocket, the stoic look on her face giving way to relief. They embraced, a family hug that was too short lived.

“They’re gone,” he saimystical-angel-oak-treed.

“For now,” she replied.

“They took too much,” he said.

“We have more stashed in the caves.”

“I don’t enough if it’s enough.”

The Farmer reached down then lifted his daughter into his arms. He looked into her fearful eyes and knew what had to be done.

“Will the bad men come back?” she asked.

“No,” The Farmer replied. “The bad men won’t come back. Daddy is going to make sure of it.”

The Farmer’s Wife looked at him skeptically and he shook his head. Once they were in the house he carried his Daughter to her room then tucked her in bed.

“Get some rest, little bird,” he said. “Mommy and I are going to lay down, too.”

“Okay, big bird,” she said. She held his cheeks with her small hands then kissed his nose.

His Wife waited for him as he left the room.

“You shouldn’t tell her things that aren’t true,” she said. “The Nomads will be back.”

“I didn’t lie,” The Farmer replied. “I called the Elder.”

The Wife’s eyes widened. The Farmer handed his shotgun to his Wife then took the handgun from her.

“I should be back by nightfall,” he said. “If I’m not, take her and go to the caves. Stay there until someone comes for you.”

The Farmer and his Wife kissed for a long time, like they used to when they were young. They held each other for a moment longer then let each other go. The Farmer went to his shed. As he reached the building Rufus met him, the old hound dog panting hard.

“You can’t go with me,” the Farmer said. “Get on that porch and keep and eye out. I’ll be back at sundown.”

He patted the dog on its head and it licked his hand before ambling off to the front porch. The Farmer climbed into his truck. It started with a loud bang and belched a cloud of white smoke before settling into a steady idle. He backed the truck out of the shed then stopped to climb out and close the shed door. Climbing back into the truck, he drove down the road to the Meeting Oak.

 

He was not the first to arrive. Blacksmith’s truck was there, as was Potter’s and Beekeeper. He could see the Meeting Oak’s canopy towering over the other trees, its branches shedding its leaves as the tree crept toward a winter’s sleep. As he trudged down the narrow path he heard other trucks pull up and doors slamming. The others gathered around him; they nodded and shook hands. There was little talk; everyone saving their words for what was about to take place.

They reached the oak. The massive tree dwarfed the men and women sitting in a half circle under its branches. Sitting before the trunk, flanked by her great-great-great grandchildren was The Elder. She seemed frail wrapped in her familiar woolen blanket, her wrinkled face resembling a land with many rivers. A small knit cap covered her head, strands of gray hair extending from beneath it.

“I’m glad you all could come,” she said, her voice resonating across the clearing. “The Nomads came and they took too much. If they come again, we will starve. They will take us, keep the weak, sell the strong and kill the useless. There is Unbalance.”

The Farmer nodded with the others. He knew what would come next, words that had not been uttered under the meeting oak in centuries, words than none but the Elder had heard beyond bedtime stories.

The Elder gazed at each of those gathered with a certainty that belied her age.

“We must reclaim the Balance, for without it we Farmers and Nomads will perish. One cannot exist without the other, but all must be equal. There must be a Summoning.”

Fallow: Part Two

military-truckThe trucks stopped before his house. The doors swung open and four people emerged wearing heavy jackets, canvas pants and boots, their faces covered by thick scarfs that rested on their shouleders. Each of them carried automatic rifles.From the rear of the second truck voices drifted, words of reassurance being spoken to calm the those whose sobbing caused The Farmer’s hands to instinctively tighten around his shotgun. One of the nomads approached him, walking to the edge of his stairs.

“That’s close enough,” The Farmer said.

The nomad halted, lowered the rifle then pulled down the face scarf, revealing the hard face of a middle age woman.

“Where’s the Portion,” she said.

“In the shed out back,” The Farmer replied.

The nomad motioned with her head. As The Farmer moved toward the stairs Rufus jumped to his paws, growling as he bared his teeth. The Nomad took aim at the dog.

“Down, boy!” The Farmer shouted.

Rufus sat, still bearing his teeth. The Nomad kept her gun trained on the dog.

“Did you come to kill a dog or did you come to get your Portion,” The Farmer said.

“Meat is meat,” the Nomad said.

The Farmer climbed down the stairs the sauntered around the back of his home to the shed. He heard the trucks rev up as they followed. He unlocked the shed then opened the wide doors as the nomads approached. They brushed by him then into the shed. In moment they returned, their arms fill with his hard earned harvest. Three trips they took before it was all gone.

The Nomad stood before him.

“Not much,” she said. “We here you’re supposed to be the best.”

“Hard season,” The Farmer replied.

The woman spit at his feet. “Where’s your family?”

The Farmer’s eyes met the Nomad’s.

“Like I said, hard season.”

The Nomad smirked. “We left enough. We expect more next year.”

The nomads climbed into their trucks then drove away. Rufus jumped from the porch, barking as he chased them down the road. As they went down the road the canvas on the rear truck opened. A faces appeared, faces filled with fear and desperation. The Farmer looked away. There was nothing he could to for them. Yet. He waited until he was sure the trucks were far away before firing one shot into the air. His family would hear that shot then come out of hiding. He went inside his home to the old ham radio which shared a table with the sewing machine. He cranked the charger until he had enough power then radioed The Elder.

“Yes, Farmer?” The Elder spoke with a voice burdened by wisdom and time.

“We need to meet,” The Farmer said. “Next year may be no better than this year.”

“I’ll gather the others,” The Elder said. “We’ll met at First Oak. You sure you want to do this? We could reach out to the Citizens.”

“They’re no better,” The Farmer said. “We need to handle this ourselves. We’ll meet at First Oak. Tomorrow.”

Fallow: Part One

The Farmer dr20160227-1779-efallow-field-late-afternoon-1eaded the day. The troubles began at the end of winter. The snows, the source of the spring surge that filled the rivers and overflowed its banks, had been light that year, barely covering the peaks of the distant mountains. The Farmer and his family stayed snug in their modest home, feeding off the smoked meats and preserves from the prior year. If there were no floods His land along the riverbank would not be fertile enough for planting.

The situation worsened with the arrival of spring. The western rains did not arrive in their normal abundance, leaving the high fields too dry. But still he planted and prayed, hoping that they would arrive in time for the growing season. His prayers were not answered. For a while there was hope. Healthy sprouts emerged, promising a good season and although the anticipated harvest would not be what he hoped, it would be enough.

That hope was crushed when the summer drought began. The crops withered in the fields under the brutal heat. He was forced to harvest early and plow what was ruined back into the dry soil. It was then that the Farmer knew. It was not enough.

So he sat on his porch, his shotgun resting in his lap patting his old hound dog Rufus on the head, waiting. His family hid in the woods beyond the dead cornfield, ready to flee if things did not work out. They would not work out. He sat up when the felt the rumble from the engines of the heavy trucks that always arrived this time of year. They were coming for his due and he would not have it. He lifted his shotgun, checking it one more time. There were three shells in the magazine, another ten in his vest pocket. Like the harvest, it wasn’t enough. As the trucks came into view on the dusty road leading to his house, he stood.

“You ready, Rufus?” he said.

The old dog licked his hand then looked at him with rueful eyes.

The Farmer grinned.

“I hear you,” he said.

The Sword and Soul Primer: Part Three

Our next once_upon_a_time_in_afrika_book_cover_by_djele-d5gnrnqbooks that are essential Sword and Soul reading were written by Balogun Ojetade. Ojetade describes his journey to Sword and Soul in his own words:

‘My interest in Sword and Soul came from my love of indigenous African martial arts and my first encounter with Bilbo Baggins.
I have been a student of the martial arts of Africa since I was four years old. I have also been reading since I was two years old – first with comic books, then I moved on to fiction. By the time I was six, I had read Watership Down. Hungry for more fantasy, I picked up my sister’s copy of The Hobbit and read it over a weekend. I wanted more fantasy!
My sisters checked out the Lord of the Rings trilogy from the library and I fell in love with Epic Fantasy…but I yearned to see myself in fiction. Also, during this time, I became acutely aware that the world of Epic Fantasy was very…white.
I searched for non-white worlds of Epic Fantasy to no avail. However, my search did lead me to a subgenre of Fantasy I enjoyed even more than Epic Fantasy: Sword and Sorcery. My favorite tales were those of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser and Elric of Melnibone. Later, I got into the Conan the Barbarian and Savage Sword of Conan comic books from Marvel Comics. Still, I wanted to read about African heroes, using African weapons and African spirituality in African settings.
I got my wish in 1980, when I was introduced to Dungeons and Dragons and due to the racism of the white players, I was quickly thrust into the position of Dungeon Master for an all-Black group of players. As I mastered the game, I began writing my own adventure modules and eventually created a campaign set in Africa.
I enjoyed writing African adventures so much, I began writing Sword and Sorcery stories set in Africa.
In June, 1987, issue #122 of my Dragon Magazine subscription came in the mail. I checked the contents and I was surprised – and elated – to find two entries: Out of Africa, by Charles R. Saunders and Gaming the Dark Continent, by Roger E. Moore.
Out of Africa – a collection of beasts and monsters from African folklore and legend – really impressed me. The article was masterfully written and well-researched. “This is a white man who got it right,” I said after reading the article. At the time, I had no idea that Charles was Black and I really had no idea one day I would call him a friend and inspiration.

Balogun has contributed two outstanding novels to the Sword and Soul archives. His first Sword and Soul novel, Once Upon A Time in Afrika which is pictured above, weighs heavily on his Afrikan martial arts experience and his background as a Yoruba priest. Once Upon a Time in Afrika Tells the story of a beautiful princess and her eager suitors. Desperate to marry off his beautiful but “tomboyish” duaghter, Esuseeke, the Emperor of Oyo, consults the Oracle. The Oracle tells the Emperor Esuseeke must marry the greatest warrior in all Onile (Afrika). To determine who is the greatest warrior, the Emperor hosts a grand martial arts tournament inviting warrior from all over the continent. Unknown to the warriors and spectators of the tournament a powerful evil is headed their way

Balogun’s second Sword and Soul novel is Beneath The Shining Jewel, a story based in world of Ki Khanga. In this novel Balogun not only deliver his usual outstanding action scenes and storytellingbeneath-the-shining-jewel-cover, but he also unleashes his talent to tell a good horror tale. Beneath the Shining Jewel takes place in Ki Khanga’s jewel city, Sati-Baa. Mba, a retired constable, is called back to active duty to deal with a situation that still haunts him twenty years later. Mba and a host of characters battle a scourge that once ravaged the city and may be poised to return. Beneath the Shining Jewel is both familiar and unique, combining African folklore with a good dose of horror and action adventure. Sword and Soul – African-inspired Heroic and Epic Fantasy – has been taken in a new and thrilling direction with Beneath the Shining Jewel, a tale that will have you riveted from beginning to end.

In addition to these two excellent novels, Balogun has contributed Sword and Soul short stories to the Griots Anthologies  and is co-editor and writer in the Ki Khanga Anthology. You can purchase Once Upon a Time in Afrika and Beneath the Shining Jewel by clicking the following links:

Once Upon a Time in Afrika

Beneath the Shining Jewel

And don’t forget to check out our Ki Khanga Sword and Soul Role Playing Game Kickstarter and level a pledge:

Ki Khanga Role Playing Game Kickstarter

Next up, someone I’m very familiar with. 🙂  Stay tuned!

Sword and Soul Primer: Part Two

We continue the Sword and Soul primer with another Charles Saunders character: Dossouye. Just as Charles broke new ground with the creation of Imaro, he lead the field once again with the creation of the first black femalekpendu Sword and Soul Character; Dossouye. Dossoye was created by Charles when he was approached to submit a story for Amazons! anthology edited by Jessica Amanda Salmonson. He also penned a Dossouye story for Marion Zimmer Bradley’s Sword and Sorceress anthology. My first encounter with Dossouye, and my first exposure to Charles’s excellent writing, was in the Dark Matter anthology editing by Sheree Thomas. Sheree reprinted the story ‘Gimmile’s Songs.

Dossouye herself is a woman warrior inspired by the real-life female warriors of the West African Kingdom of Dahomey. Orphaned at a young age, Dossouye becomes a soldier in the women’s army of the kingdom of Abomey. In a war against the rival kingdom of Abanti, Dossouye saves her people from certain destruction; but a cruel twist of fate compels her to go into exile. Mounted on her might war-bull, Gbo, Dossouye enters the vast rainforest beyond the borders of her homeland, seeking a place to call her own. The forest is where Dossouye will either find a new purpose in life… or find her life cut short by the many menaces she encounters.

Charles has published two Dossouye novels. The first, published is 2008,  is a collection of Dossouye stories. The second book, Dancers of Mulukau, is a complete novel and brand new Dossouye adventure. Charles also wrote a new Dossouye short story, Kpendu, which appears in the Griots: Sisters of the Spear anthology which he and I co-edited. As in Imaro, Charles uses a world based on Africa. As a matter of fact, Dossouye’s world in Nyumbani as well, but in another era distant from the time of Imaro.

You can purchase the Dossouye novels here:

Dossouye

Dossouye: The Dancers of Mulukau

 

dossouye-book-covermulukau

 

 

 

Next up; Sword and Soul writer and my partner in crime, Balogun Ojetade. And don’t forget to check out the Ki Khanga Kickstarter: The Ki Khanga RPG Kickstarter.

A Sword and Soul Primer: Part One

If you’ve been paying attention ki-khanga-coverto anything I’m up to you know that I’m in the midst of a Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the completion of the Ki Khanga Sword and Soul Role Playing game. You’ll also be happy to know that our campaign was successful in only two days and that now we are working to reach stretch goals to add enhancements that will improve the gameplaying experience. But that’s not what I’m here to write about. I’m here to write about Sword and Soul.  There may be a few of you who have pledged for or are planning to purchase Ki Khanga but have never read Sword and Soul. So I’ve decided to share a required reading list of Sword and Soul titles that will give you a sense of what Sword and Soul is and spark your imagination for exciting Ki Khanga gameplay.

The best place to start is at the beginning, and Sword and Soul begins with Charles R. Saunders. Charles is the founder of Sword and Soul, and his writing is the best example of what Sword and Soul is and can be. Like most of us he was originally inspired by Robert E. Howard’s Conan and just like most of us imarohe was troubled by the depiction of black characters in Howard’s work. When he began work on Imaro he was setting out to create a character that, in his own words, ‘could kick Conan’s ass.’ I believe he succeeded. Howard’s influence can clearly be seen in the first novel, but as Charles progressed in telling Imaro’s tale you can see the evolution away from Howard’s style to a point that by Book Four Charles’s work stands alone. Imaro is the standard for Sword and Soul, and Charles’ work, while highly underrated in fantasy writing in general, is highly respected and admired among die hard sword and sorcery readers. Charles’ Imaro collection is currently published by Sword and Soul Media and can be found at Lulu.com. Imaro Books One and Two can be purchased via Amazon.

Imaro

Imaro: The Quest for Cush

Imaro: The Trial of Bohu

Imaro: The Naama War

Stay tuned for our next blog, where we talk about another Charles Saunders’s creation, Dossouye, and another writer who is working to expand the legacy of Sword and Soul. I wonder who that could be. In the meantime, check out the Ki Khanga Kickstarter. Not only can you read Sword and Soul, now you can play it.  The Ki Khanga RPG Kickstarter