Friday, 29 November 2013

Silenced

By Diana Gitau


There was something different about this place. The new heir to the throne had just taken oath and the whole kingdom was in a celebratory mood. However, In this village, people hardly mentioned the new king. Instead, there were numerous meetings being held in the dead of the night. There were also strangers coming in and leaving our compound all through the night. I could feel it, there was definitely something going on.
 
However, nobody said anything to me. After all, I was just the farmhand. In addition, I was a Turain in a land of Maas.

Weeks after King Ruimi had taken over the kingdom, the celebrations still went on in other villages, but still, the Maas people here were silent. Every evening after my last meal of the day, Master would ask me to go to my hut instead of inviting me to sit at the fireplace with him like he used to.

I slept in a small hut made of mud walls, earth floor and grass thatch for roofing. Like all mud walls, there were many cracks that let light into my room. I didn’t have the luxury of using a lantern and so I mastered the art of walking in the dark when there was no moonlight.  

However, the cracks also allowed me to hear what was going on outside and i could tell that there was something definitely wrong. 

Master lived in his own hut which I thought looked like a palace fit for a king.  It was a huge hut right in the middle of the compound. The hut had a good roof made of shiny new corrugated iron sheet. This meant that it would remain completely dry even when it rained. Master’s walls did not have cracks.

Each night, I would hear the visitors come in. This went for weeks but still, he said nothing to me. So I made up my mind to find out what was going on. 

Kerar Kingdom was dived into two tribes, the Maas and Turains. The Maas which was the King’s tribe was naturally the leaders. The Turains were the servants. Although this was the norm, it still brought a lot of resentment between the two tribes.  The Maas took the leadership of the kingdom by force and kept all the wealth to them. Every time, they would ensure that one of their own took the throne at any cost. This is what had happened with King Ruimi despite the fact that his opponent King Tuleg from the Turains had the majority support.

This being a country where people vote according to tribal lines, I could feel the animosity towards me throughout the elections. The Turains were suddenly feeling unwelcome in the kingdom. However, Master always protected me like his own family. So I kept trying to convince myself that I didn’t need to know what was going on with the nightly meetings but my gut feeling told me that something was wrong.

That night, as usual, I went to my hut and lay awake in the dark just listening and waiting. After an hour, I heard the voices. I quickly woke up and peeped through the crack on the walls. It was a clear night and the moon lit up the whole compound making it easy for me to see outside.

Take them to the cowshed”, I heard Master saying although I couldn’t see who he was talking to.

After a while, I could see a few young men walk into the compound carrying bundles in their arms. I could see their faces and so it was easy to recognize them. Two of them were Masak and Tuwen, arrogant Maas who have always shown open contempt for me. They were talking in low tones so I couldn’t make out their words. I couldn’t also quite see what they were carrying but I watched them as they went into the empty cowshed and then make a few more trips with more bundles.

All the while, master stood watching them silently. When they were done, he walked to Tuwen who seemed to be the leader of the group and handed over an envelope before silently walking back to his hut.

I continued peeping through the crack until I saw the lantern in the main house go off and knew that master had gone to bed. Silently, I got out of my hut trying not to make any sound and went to the shed. The door was latched into place tied shut with a knot made from sisal fibers. I carefully undid the knot and walked into the shed, thankful for the moonlight.

It was clear to see that tonight’s drop off was definitely not the only one as the shed was full. There were about a hundred wrapped packages neatly arranged in rows all over the floor. I tiptoed to the first package and slowly un-wrapped the blanket to reveal glistening new machetes. I moved to another package and it was the same thing. The shed was full of thousands of machetes!

I wrapped the blankets back and put them back in place as I left. My heart was racing as I tried to make sense of what I had seen. What could master be planning? What did this have to do with me? I lay awake that night with so many thoughts running through my mind. The Maas was a powerful tribe but they were not violent. They peaceful co-existed with the Turains even if they hated them. In addition, as the ruling tribe, they never fought amongst themselves. The stocking up of machetes didn’t make sense to me.

The next night, I again stayed up to see if Tuwen and Masak would be back. I heard voices again and quickly moved to the crack. This time around, the skies were dark with no moon making it difficult to see outside. However, I could clearly make out the voice of the speaker. It was Raful, the king’s younger brother. A few minutes went by before more visitors came in. In an hour’s time, I had counted a total of five Maas, all very powerful men in the kingdom. They all walked into Master’s hut.

I tried but couldn’t just go back to bed and ignore what was going on. My curiosity got the better of me and so I decided to go and investigate. I quietly walked out of my house and headed for the main house. I tried to crawl to ensure that I wasn’t spotted. Still crouched, I followed the voices to the window and stayed low as I listened in.

Have you organized the young men from Muruka”, I heard Master ask. 

Muruka was a village where poor Maas lived.

Yes they are ready and just waiting for your word”, a voice that I didn’t know replied.

We have to ensure that all goes well, we cannot have these people on our village any longer” a third voice added. I was able to identify this voice as that of Chief Mute.

They are an ungrateful lot, coming here and settling like they own the land. We will send them out of the kingdom in coffins”. This last statement was made by Master.

If we do not do something right now, next elections, they may just take the throne”.

To set an example, you should start with your servant!” another voice commanded sending a chill down my spine.

He is a harmless fool,” Master responded.

Aren’t they all? But they have the numbers so we cannot keep entertaining them. We are the Maas, this is our kingdom!”

I had hoped to hear Master respond and defend me but he just kept quiet. I panicked and decided to get back to my hut as quickly as possible expecting to hear footsteps behind me. However, I made it safely without anyone stopping me. Maybe they hadn’t heard me, I consoled myself.


However, just before getting into bed, I went to the crack and looked outside and was met a pair of cold eyes. Master was standing at the window, just watching my hut. Nine years I had worked for the man but looking at him then, I saw a stranger. He had never treated me any different despite our different heritages. I even thought of him as my friend and only family. This was not the Master that I knew!

I closed the door behind me with my heart beating so loudly that I thought Master could hear it.I waited to hear footsteps approaching my door but there was nothing.


The next day, I woke up with thoughts of escaping and going back to my village, just outside the kingdom where most Turains lived. It is a three days’ walk but I could make it.

It was still dark when I stepped out of the hut the next day. At my doorstep, I was met by a horrifying sight. Master had left me a message. It was a tongue. Human or animal, I couldn’t figure out. However, the message was very clear.

Silenced.



1 comment:

  1. Wow this is a great first story Diana! Highly captivating and definitely makes me want to read more.

    ReplyDelete