Shouta fell to his knees, sobbing. He held the sword to his chest, trying to catch his breath in between howls. Dana walked over to him, but Samara pulled her back.
“Let him mourn,” Samara whispered. Dana nodded.
It was 10 minutes before Shouta weakly walked his way to the group. His face was swollen, his voice hoarse.
“We should go see the Elders. They know what to do,” he mumbled.
He got back on his horse and took off. Samara followed suit as black smoke. Dana and Ekundayo took off after Shouta. They rode for what felt like hours, the sun peeking its face over the horizon. Shouta dismounted in front of a forest.
“Off the horse. Don’t show up as smoke, please.” He disappeared into the trees. Dana and friends followed, listening to the rustling of the trees that Shouta shifted.
They walked upon a small tribe of Black folk, their bodies adorned with cotton dresses and skirts. Some had spears, some had guns. They looked up and cheered, greeting Shouta and hugging him. They greeted Samara and Dana, hugging them as well. When they came up to Ekundayo, who still had his mask, they gasped and fell at his feet. He lifted up the mask and looked at his group.
“Uh…??” He started to help a few of them up to their feet. They screamed and started to cry. He stepped back and looked at Shouta. “I don’t understand,” he said.
Shouta smiled and walked over to him.
“Your mask happens to be one of their gods, so…” Ekundayo blinked.
“Oh, word?” He laughed and pushed the mask back down. The people cheered. One of the people started to play a drum; the others started to dance, Ekundayo dancing with them.
Samara and Dana sat on the ground, watching their people dance. Dirt kicked up, people howled and swayed to the drum beat, another drummer joining. Ekundayo lead the people in a dance that made Dana and Samara quickly get up and join them. They stomped their feet and called up the heavens hidden behind the many leaves of the canopy. Shouta smiled and watched, his heart feeling a pang of guilt.
The drumming stopped and the dancing stop when an older person walked through the trees. Their grey hair fell to the middle of their back while simultaneously reaching toward the sky. The people bowed.
“You can all stand. I didn’t mean to stop the party,” they whispered, giggling. They walked over to Ekundayo and kissed the top of his mask. “You dance wonderfully, thank you for bringing us joy during this time,” they said, squeezing his hands. They walked over to Samara and lifted her head up with a finger. “You are wonderful,” they whispered, kissing her check. Samara started to cry. They walked over to Dana and hugged her. “You are stronger than you, child.” Dana’s eyes started to water.
The older person walked over to Shouta.
“You still mourn,” they said, nodding to the sword. He squeezed the hilt.
“I do,” he replied.
The elder nodded and patted his cheek.
“She’ll be back soon.” Shouta took a breath.
The elder sat in a chair made up of animal fur and bones. The people sat around, the guests following suit. The drummers quietly played.
“As we move forever forward in a search of a new place to call home, these Dogs will forever follow. We must be vigilant as to make sure they do not murder our children again.”
The people whispered quietly, reaching out to the sky and grabbing a hold of sunlight and clutching it to their chest.
“As we move forever forward, we must remember the amazing thing that had to happen for us to come this far.”
The elder told of the tale that happened 7 years ago.
The Dogs had sent 1 or 2 people to their village in the South. There was one adult and child. A few months went by before one of the people’s children went missing. The Dogs claim to have known nothing. Another month and another child were gone. By the 5th month, a total of 10 children went missing. The elder now thoroughly suspicious, had the people round-up the Dogs. They found the adult, but the child was harder to find. When they found the Dog child, they were huddled in the bushes, a knife and hammer at their feet, poking at the brains of one of the people’s children.
“That wicked child let out the most disgusting laugh I ever heard. Those people forced some of their language onto us. That child had said ‘worthless brains of worthless people’. So we brought that evil child to their owner and demanded to know where our children went. The owner didn’t say anything. So we killed that child in front of them.”
Ekundayo, Samara and Dana gasped. Shouta listened.
“That monster suddenly had a tongue. They told us where the base was. So after they led us to that base, that base of 20 people. We rushed it. It was amazing,” the elder said.
“We let out the yell of our missing children and slaughtered everyone. The monster that had breached our ranks was first. We killed them right in front of their own. We rained fire and vengeance on them. It was that day that Shouta and his warrior came to us. Told us they saw us fight. Told us that we weren’t safe. So they helped us escape and hide. And yet, those Dogs still follow.”
The people went quiet as the elder got up and walked over to Shouta again. They grabbed his hand and put a USB drive into his hand. Shouta blinked and bowed his head.
“Thank you,” he whispered. The elder smiled at him and kissed his cheek.
“Let us know and we will be there.” And with a laugh, the trio blinked and were in the forest alone.