The booming voice of Tate Haikulu reverberated across the homestead as if a bomb had landed upon the premises. All the children had already taken to their rooms for an early night despite having at least another hour before bed time.
Even the youngest toddler in the house learned to read the moods of the chief of the house and today above any night before, he was not to be messed with. On nights such as these, it was best to remain quiet and possibly as far away from him as possible, but Uulia, his daughter, inasmuch as she inherited all her looks from her mother, all her personality, including her boldness and sassiness was taken right from him.
On this warm summer night, she found herself tiptoeing closer to her father’s bedroom to get a closer listen on what had riled the old man so much. As she glided around the corridor, she looked up into the peaceful black sky. There was a massive contrast between the vociferous atmosphere at home and the almost starless sky. Where the boom of her father almost shook the entire village, the few stars that were visible only twinkled innocently.
Uulia had a good hunch what was driver her father so much up the wall and as she stepped ever closer, her fears were confirmed.
“That stupid man thinks he can try and embarrass me in front of the entire village like I am a fool!” he shouted. “He thinks because of a dumb luck he has become greater than me, because his crops, for the first time in seven years, out-yielded mine. The nerve of him! So classless.”
“Tate Hafeni knows his place—” Uulia’s mother, Chekupe, tried to console him.
“Don’t call him Tate!” Tate Haikulu interjected. “You will not give him that much respect in my house!”
“He knows his place, dear,” Chekupe persisted. “You are both honoured by the King, but you both know who is closer to the King. Who is part of his inner counsel and who is not?”
“Of course I am,” came the proud voice of the man. “But I cannot accept such disrespect from a clear inferior.”
“He was simply acting on his over-elation, because his son, Iimanu, got a promotion at work and had returned home,” his wife continued calmly. “Any father would overact if their son was away for months at a dangerous mine in Tsumeb and finally came home with such good news. You only have a daughter—”
“Are you trying to insult me?”
“Of course not. Our daughter is not an insult. She is the smartest person in this entire village. She is beautiful and has your strength.”
“Agh. Do not speak to me of that. You know very well that man has given me hell for not being able to have sons,” her father retorted.
In the last few moments, perhaps the thing that should have concerned Uulia the most was the fact that her father did not quite seem completely proud to have her as a daughter, but it was a testament that the only thing she could think of was the fact that Tate Hafeni’s son had returned from work.
“I don’t know why I put up with that slime. I know when my donkeys got lost last year and they were found with broken legs…that was his doing!”
“And you retaliated by sending boys to scare his herders, allowing his goats to scatter,” his wife reasoned.
“That was not nearly enough. He has done much worse to me over the years. I know it despite the fact that his cowardly self has tried to hide it. I know he sent someone to put those white rags on my Eembe tree at midnight last year in order to start a rumour that my crop field was haunted,” said Tate Haikulu.
“That was after you threw cement in his newly dug well!”
“Agh. Whose side are you on anyway!?” Tate Haikulu shouted irritably.
“How can you even ask that?” his wife responded, the disappointment in her voice was noticeable.
Several moments of silence passed after this. Uulia was starting to think the argument had at last come to an end when her father finally spoke.
“I know what I shall do,” he said. “It’s a perfect revenge for what he said to me in the market today. Extreme maybe, but it sounds just right. I will set his beloved crop aflame. Hahaha.”
Even as Uulia’s eyes bulged in the night, she could hear the horror in her own mother’s voice. “You cannot do this. This war between the two of you has to end, it will not help anyone.”
“No,” came the determined voice of her father. Uulia knew, her father’s no was final. “It will be done tonight. Call my foremen.”
Uulia stepped away, trying to make as little noise as possible. She was not quite fond of Tate Hafeni, but she had stronger reasons to get involved now. She knew reasoning with her father was useless, but she had to do something. And it meant betrayal to her own kin. But her heart was set. With no one watching, she tiptoed out of the homestead and out into the dark intimidating night. The sight of the Eembe tree which had been the source of all those ghost stories last year should have been enough to give her nightmares, but she pressed on into the night.
Thirty minutes later, afraid, yet determined, she walked past the gate of another village house. The dogs spotted her, sniffed and ignored her. She walked to the window of a room in the corner, took a stone and tapped on it. It took several attempts before the window opened.
“Uulia, what are you doing here so late,” said Iimanu, his head poking from the window. He extended his head further and planted a kiss on her lips.
“You have to get up. Something is going to happen tonight,” said Uulia. “My father is planning something.”
To be continued ….