Saturday, November 5, 2011


Two months.

The Admiral's pressure had only increased since the discovery of the mainland-- a spit of hauntingly quiet forests stretching from east to west across the southern rim of the sea had been a sight both similar and unlike those of the little islands the first and second voyages found.

Musa counted the passage of the moon as they trekked, mapped, and survived what the Admiral and his fanatics were calling "Eden."

Like most of his brothers, Musa had simply been on the wrong side of a war on the other side of the sea. For most, this meant fleeing into the hinterlands between villages and living nomadically until the family disputes and property arguments had settled between. Musa's brothers and cousins had done this before in other skirmishes, but it was his foolishness to stumble over a hidden root during flight. The Oyo in pursuit captured the young solider hardly before he knew that he fumbled.

In raising arms against the king, he was sentenced to four years a slave. The work had been light (his overall purpose was that of a breathing war trophy), and family was never far away; his captors were captors, but fair in their treatment, and his contract would expire upon forty eight months of service.

Until he was traded to the Songhai.

And then the Mali.

And then the Akan.

And then to the ocean. Musa had never seen the sea before, but each trade brought his south and west, away from the mountains and the fields to the forests, swamps, and salt water. At the seaside town of Elmina, where he was handed to the Portuguese in a sale of twenty four other men. The first work was little different from those of previous captors, until they seamen brought him north. Ship-work was confusing, too fast-paced, too boring, and too dangerous for his taste, but he was saved as a watchman; the keen eyes which Musa's mother had given him, and his knowledge of the constellations (both the real ones and the sailors') earned him a post to navigate.

Seven years later, he was fairly certain that his bondage contact had been forgotten. Nonetheless, the shipmates to the west-islands were no different from other bondsmen-- they all hid from the Admiral's lash-man, they all starved and died together during the voyage, and they all dreamt of escaping to homes and families.

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