Zamba somehow forced himself to walk through the night. The first pink shades of sunrise had begun streaking the sky as Zamba dragged himself through the brush and up the incline that signaled he had obtained his goal. His energy was depleted; he knew he would need to rest and looked for a place to hide himself again, hopefully someplace that Matwanda’s men could not find him. He was too depleted to worry about covering his tracks. As the day dawned, Zamba fell into an exhausted slumber.
A woman’s face obscured the sky and broke into a wide grin as Zamba jerked awake. The suddenness of her appearance would have caused him to scramble backwards to escape if he were not already immobilized by lying on the ground. Her smile seemed to tell Zamba that she was not to be feared, but he didn’t know what to think--there were so many unknowns already. “Zamba,” the woman murmured and bent down to brush her lips across his cheek. Zamba slowly let the terror he had held for days begin to drain out of him. There was something familiar and comforting about this woman’s touch. The intimacy with which she smiled at him and said what he presumed to be his name was like a salve to both his body and soul.
“Can you walk?” she asked, standing up and reaching a hand down to him. Zamba didn’t know, but was willing to try for this woman. “The others are hidden above us. We let you sleep during the day. It was too risky to come for you before the daylight started to fade. I volunteered to come.” With the woman’s help, Zamba was able to rise to his feet and between her support and his walking stick, he wound his way up the mountainside. The woman knew where she was going. It felt so good to Zamba to allow someone else to make decisions now. They did not speak as they ascended. Eventually, the woman guided him to an outcropping of rocks. They squeezed through a small opening and descended into a small gulley which then opened up into a shallow valley with high overhanging walls. The location gave excellent shelter. It would be easy to hide from anyone searching for them from above. The woman called ahead and others came running to help them at the end of their journey.
The group welcomed him heartily and brought food. The meal was simple, consisting only of what could be scavenged from the mountains, but Zamba was grateful for it. The group bided their time as Zamba ate, but as soon as he was done, they began to pester him with questions.
“Did Matwanda capture you?”
“How did you escape?”
“Where are the coins?”
But Zamba had more questions for them than he was able to answer.
“Who am I and who are all of you and why can’t I remember anything?”
Zamba’s life began to take form as his fellow villagers described his life to him. What they explained to him sounded solid and plausible, but his own memories of these times seemed to flicker just beyond his mind’s reach. He felt closer to recovering his life than he had for days though, with the woman sitting close beside him and the other villagers smiling and taking care of him.
Matwanda and his men had been a threat for years, occasionally raiding the village or kidnapping those who wandered outside the safety of the village. But, Matwanda’s latest raid had been an all out assault. He had stolen supplies, burned what remained and either kidnapped or scattered the people. This small band, in the safety of the mountains, had miraculously escaped the destruction and found one another as the raiders abandoned the site. None of them suffered from the lack of memory that plagued Zamba though.
Zamba discovered that he was apprenticed to the shaman and it was to this hut that Matwanda had first descended upon the village. The other villagers had seen Zamba bound with rope and dragged out of the hut before everything was set on fire. It was hard for them to believe that Zamba had survived and was with them now. They suggested that either beatings or sorcery on Matwanda’s part had caused Zamba to lose his memory. They also told him that Zamba had been given the charge of safeguarding the village’s coins and looked heartbroken to find that Zamba had no idea what had happened to them. Zamba hated to see their looks of dismay as he told them that he supposed the coins were likely now in Matwanda’s possession.
Check back tomorrow to see if Zamba recovers his memory!