"Their beauty is a lure to misfortune."
These words ring in the ears of Kefiwe, a mercenary hired to extract a strange book from the invader, Shafiq Al-Qadir and his so-called, Dragon Horde. For the sake of a camp of refugees and her stomach, they are words that must be ignored.
However, an exposed position, a reckless plan, and bad luck brings Kefiwe face-to-face with a creature no amount of wisdom or training could ever prepare her for.
Hers is only the first of many, Tales of Nahwalla.
There weren’t always dragons in the valley. The Red River Valley was once saturated with music, dances, and dueling griots who recited tale after tale seeking the loudest applause and praise from the gathered tribes. Applause that echoed down the valley’s copper cliffs and faded into the rocks, adding to the stones’ vast memory of all those who had dwelled within its might for thousands of years.
Kefiwe could still remember the stories her mother told her as they sat at the loom, stories about finding lost voices of their ancestors that dwelled deep in the cliffs’ fissures. Tales of hearing entire sagas recited by griots long past if she remained still in the night and listened to the stones singing to the wind.
There was no singing in the valley now. No music. No chorus of memory.
There was only fire, metal, and screams.
Shipwrecked, marooned, and alone, the smuggler Lubwa is prepared for despair when he stumbles upon a jengu, a messenger of the seas. Desperate for escape, Lubwa begs the jengu for her fabled aid. With her help, Lubwa is swept by good fortunte, however, he soon learns that all good things come with a price.....
The waves held no mercy. They tore through the wood of the raft, ripped off the mast, and devoured the last of the rope. The sail, or what was left of it, twisted above the roaring sea free and ignorant of the turmoil.
Lubwa kicked against the wicked current that constricted him. The shore was a faint speck of shadow and silhouette against the roaring torrent. The raindrops hammered against his skin. Each impact like falling metal. The depths of the sea opened its mouth wide, prepared to claim yet another unfortunate sailor as its next meal. It was a fate that Lubwa knew would be his one day. Every time the sail was hoisted, every time the hull cut through the waves, every time men dared to encroach on the domain of the sea goddess, Mukwano, they risked her fury. No mercy would be given. So Lubwa wouldn’t ask for it.
He took a breath and kicked. His muscles ached. Salt consumed every surface of his mouth. He could no longer feel his legs. The cold was doing its work. Lightning cracked across the sky; the island became a speck of green before vanishing in the dark. But it was all Lubwa needed.
If you can swim, you can live, his father whispered.
“Swim and live….” Lubwa muttered, his arms and numb legs moving at pace. “Swim and live. Swim and live.”
A log burst from the depths. It drifted without direction before nudging against his side. Lubwa saw himself throw his arm around the object. Good fortune at last. A round of coughs sent waves of pain up his ribs. The pain told Lubwa the log wasn’t a dream. He sighed, but rest and relief were things Mukwano preyed upon. He kicked his aching legs towards the shore.
“Swim and live. Swim and live.”
The sand was a bed of stones. Lubwa rolled on his side and spent the remainder of the night coughing out the entirety of the Kurembera Sea from his lungs. By the time darkness cleared from his vision, the sun blazed on his shivering body. The remnants of the raft brushed against the shore. Lubwa dragged himself up the slight hill that separated the shore from the rest of the island. The camp, a mat beneath a stretched-out tunic with additional leaves, welcomed Lubwa.
He found the small black tome he had buried beforehand along with the cut reed coated with clay at its tip. He managed to sit up and his tired hands moved across the page.
“Day forty-two,” he wrote. “Escape attempt eleven has failed.”