With the ongoing success of our Kickstarter, Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game will soon be available worldwide. Time to start thinking about your adventures.

Here is a story, written by Yours Truly, that features one (or more) of the many fearsome creatures that roam the world of Ki Khanga. You’ll find stats and descriptions of creatures in the Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game rulebook.

Yoro stood outside of the hen house, glaring at the carnage. Feathers and blood littered the yard around the long wooden structure. Dozens of cackling hens stood around Yoro; the rooster wandered around, mute. A few hens pecked at Yoro’s feet, impatient for the feed he carried.

Yoro walked off to one side, scattering the chicken feed about. The birds flocked to it.

Yoro sauntered back to the scene of destruction. He dropped down to one knee and then studied a single, large paw print that stamped the blood-soaked earth.

A dog, Yoro thought. He straightened up. Damned big one too. He checked the birds’ water and then he went back to the house. Rediet was in the galley by the clay oven, sweeping the ash on the earthen floor. She paused and smiled at him. Upon studying Yoro’s expression, though, the smile quickly faded. 

“What’s wrong?” she asked.

“A dog got into the hen house this morning,” Yoro replied, putting the feed bucket down by the back door. “It must have happened when we went out for our walk.”

“Not rakuni?” she asked.

He shook his head. “There’s a single track out there, and it’s huge; too big for a rakuni.”

“No one around here has a big dog,” Rediet said, brushing a lock of curly black hair back behind her ear.

“Must be feral,” Yoro said. “Maybe living in Haisale.”

“Are you going to inform the constables?” she asked.

“No,” he said. “They won’t do anything. People don’t care if a few chickens get taken. I’ll track it as far as I can; see if I can take care of the damned thing myself.”

“Okay,” Rediet said. “We’ll take the punda.”

“We?” Yoro said, raising an eyebrow. “And it is difficult to track from the back of a donkey. I will walk…alone.”

“I can ride Tesfaye and guide Girma along,” Rediet said. “We’ll stop just outside of Haisale. You can meet us there and ride back. I’d prefer that to having you walk all the way back.”

“Alright, love,” Yoro sighed. He stepped close, gave her a quick kiss on the mouth and then left for the capacious family room that dominated most of the house. He walked over to an old wooden cabinet, opened it and then took out his repeating scatterbow and a quiver of sabots. He quietly loaded ten sabots – each holding eight tiny steel balls – into the magazine atop the weapon, which had served him well during his time in the Haiseti light infantry division.

Yoro cradled the scatterbow in the crook of his arm and then left the room. Rediet was back at the oven, and he could not see what she was so focused on as warm morning light streamed in through the window making only her curvy silhouette clear.

“I’m ready” she said as Yoro went to the back door. “I’ll get the donkeys ready and we will be right behind you.”

“Okay,” Yoro replied, and then he left the house.

Quick steps brought him to the back of the hen house. He spotted a hole in the chicken wire. On the other side, he found another paw print on a small game trail opposite of the break. Yoro focused on the path before him, and he started to track the dog.

Broken branches. Disturbed leaves. The occasional mark of a paw. A bit of fur.

And as he had thought, the trail continued on northwest, toward Haisale.

Soon, he caught sight of a huge clay oven, with a brick chimney protruding from it. It stood alone, without a house around it. The remains of a foundation burst forth from the earth like the jagged fingers of some long-buried stone giant.

In less than five minutes, he found himself on a pebble road, much of it hidden by fallen leaves and broken branches. The remnants of houses appeared on either side, and occasional side roads branched off. 

But the tracks of the dog continued on.

The trail was easy to follow – leaves kicked up and pebbles shifted to reveal the rich soil beneath as the dog had made its way straight down the center of the road.

Finally, Yoro came to a wide street, and he paused.

The stretch of road frightened him.

Only a dozen or so buildings populated the street. There was something off about the structures. Some of the windows were boarded up. The signs on what were obviously once businesses were faded and difficult to read. It was the total abandonment that scared him. The emptiness of the town.

People had left Haisale. No one really knew why, and former residents were hard-pressed to admit they had ever lived there. Like any town or city, it had its morbid spots. The old Joka Mkahawa – the Dragon Inn; the Haisale Maziko, where those too dishonorable to be buried in their family’s home, or on the family’s compound, were laid to rest. Hell, someone had even told him once the maktaba was haunted.

“I did not know ghosts like to read,” Yoro had joked. He snickered at the image of ghosts sitting at tables reading the old tomes in the abandoned library.

The “dog” suddenly trotted out between the old well and the smithy.

Yoro gasped as a chill slithered up from his tail bone up his spine and then coiled around his neck.

It was an mbwakawi – a two-headed dog built of thick bone and dense muscle. This one was obviously still a pup, for its shoulders looked to be only the height of Yogo’s waist. A powerful neck supported each head and the creature’s eyes were in constant motion, scanning its surroundings for danger or potential prey.

The dog swung one of its short, broad muzzles toward him. Yoro could see dried blood on the animal’s snout.

Yoro inhaled deeply to calm himself. “I see you,” he murmured. He swung the scatterbow up to his shoulder, pulled its vertical handle backward to notch a sabot in the chamber and draw the bow-string.

The mbwakawi broke into a sprint away from Yoro’s position. Yoro released the handle. A sabot flew from the bow’s muzzle. The shot missed, but not by much. The round split, sending a cloud of pellets flying. The steel balls hammered into a tethering pole, biting out a chunk of wood.

Yoro darted after the mbwakawi. He raised the scatterbow to fire again, but the two-headed creature leapt through the open window of a building.

“Damn it,” Yoro spat. He lowered the scatterbow slightly and then walked forward. He angled towards the building, keeping a wary eye on the window the mbwakawi had jumped through. Reaching the door, he tried its handle. The door was unlocked. He crept in and found himself in a room with small chairs and small desks. Empty shelves, just one-to-three feet off the ground, lined the walls. Faded drawings depicting children at play covered the walls, and spider webs filled the corners of the ceiling. Leaves and small bones lay scattered about the dirt floor.

It’s the dog’s den, Yoro thought. But where’s the dog?

A broken door, which hung haphazardly from the top hinge, was the only other way out of the room. Yoro smiled as he crept toward it. He heard a soft whine, followed by several scratches. With a deep breath, he readied the scatterbow and then pushed the door open. The room beyond was dimly lit. The light from the front of the building barely breached the darkness. At the edge of his vision, Yoro saw the mbwakawi. It slipped into a darker shadow to the right and whined again.

“I’ve got you,” he whispered, cranking a round into the chamber.

“What are you doing?” a small voice asked, issuing from the same darkness the mbwakawi had disappeared into.

Yoro paused, shocked. The dog’s not alone? 

“What are you doing?” the voice asked again.

It was a child. A little boy? A girl? Yoro could not be sure. He lowered the scatterbow, glad he had not just fired into the shadow.

“I’m chasing an mbawakawi,” Yoro said, squinting and trying to see. “A dog with two heads.” All he could make out was the mbwakawi. It sat quietly.

“He’s my dog,” the child said.

“Your dog ate my chickens, son,” Yoro said.

“I’m a girl,” the child spat. “My name’s Wubit.”

“Well, Wubit, your dog,” Yoro began.

“Gedeyon,” she said.

“What?” Yoro asked.

“His name is Gedeyon.”

“Well,” Yoro said, trying not to become angry with the girl. “Gedeyon ate my chickens.”

“He was hungry.”

Yoro rolled his eyes. “Doesn’t matter, Wubit. It can’t be eating my chickens. And besides, you two can’t be out here. Do your parents know where you are? Did you run away?”

“He was hungry,” she said again.

Daarila, help me, Yoro thought, sighing. “Wubit, did you run away from home?”

“I am home,” she said.

“Wubit,” Yoro said.

“Gedeyon is my dog. We’re home. He was hungry,” she said. Then, in an angry voice, she asked, “Were you going to shoot my dog?”

“He killed my chickens,” Yoro said defensively. “Now listen, I’m going to pa a visit to the constables. They’ll come and get you.”

“What about Gedeyon?” she asked.

“They’ll take him to the jeshi,” he answered.

“What’s the jeshi? Is it like the Mikijen those fat, old men from Kiswala pay to fight for them?” she asked.

“Yes,” Yoro said. “Kind of.”

“No.”

“You can’t say ‘no,’ Wubit,” Yoro snapped. His patience was growing thin. He reached down to his belt and then unhooked a tiny lamp from it. He shook the lamp and the glowflies inside it began to glow, bathing the floor in soft, yellow light. He held the lamp up to look at her.

Gedeyon sat perfectly still, all four of his ears up and all four of his eyes trained on Yoro. There was no girl.

“Put the lamp away,” Wubit said, her voice coming from beside the dog.

Yoro swallowed nervously and looked around. Then, down by the dog’s right paw, he saw a small stuffed doll, made from soft cloth and probably stuffed with straw. The toy was dressed in a faded orange tunic. Its hair, made of black yarn, was matted, and one of its brass eyes was missing.

“I said put it away!” she screamed. The glowflies fell dead inside the lamp. Yoro shook the lamp furiously in an attempt to turn the lamp back on. It did not work.

The mbwakawi whined.

“You tried to hurt Gedeyon,” Wubit said, her voice closer to Yoro now. Yoro dropped the lamp and then clutched his scatterbow with both hands.

“And you want to give him away to the army,” she hissed. The voice came from behind him.

Yoro spun around and something hit him in the small of his back. He stumbled, hit the wall and fell, but he did not let go of the scatterbow. He scrambled into a seated position and kept the weapon in front of him. Small hands closed over his. The feeling was terrible, ice-penetrating his flesh, digging deep into his bones. It seemed as though his fingernails were being ripped out at their roots. He tried to shake the hands away, but he could not even let go of the scatterbow.

And then the mbwakawi was there. Yoro could feel Gedeyon’s breath on his face and smell the rot of old flesh caught between the dog’s teeth. A low, primal growl settled in the creature’s throat. Goosebumps raised along Yoro’s arms.

“You wanted to kill my dog,” Wubit whispered. “You’re not nice. I bet you’d try and steal my Ras Jalene doll, too. You’re mean. Mean.

The scatterbow moved in his hands. The barrel rose up, and he fought it, tried to push back. He could not. Wubit was too strong. A scream erupted from his throat as she continued to bring the weapon up.

The fingers of his cocking hand snapped, bending at odd angles away from each other. The wrist of that same hand was twisted out of its socket, and so was his elbow, and then his shoulder. He gagged on the agony and writhed against the wall.

Still, Wubit would not let him go. The barrel of the scatterbow slammed into Yoro’s eye.

He shrieked as Wubit continued to push it back into his face. The orb was forced out of the socket.

Yoro’s scream became a high-pitched wail as his arm twisted beyond any semblance of normalcy.

“You were going to hurt my dog,” Wubit whispered. “My dog.”

Yoro felt her small, cold hand push down on his mangled fingers. He focused through the pain and, with his remaining eye, saw a young girl, perhaps seven or eight. She had pallid, brown skin; her eyes were empty and black. Her crooked lips were pressed tightly together and she was thin. Painfully so.

“My dog,” she hissed.

She started to push the scatterbow’s lever back with his ruined fingers, and Yoro realized, with the way she had twisted his arm, it would look as though he had committed suicide.

And then Wubit released his hand.

Yoro’s faceless body fell over with a wet thud.

Wubit smiled at the mbwakawi. “Asante, for bringing me this meal, Gedeyon! You’re a good dog!”

About Balogun

Balogun is the author of the bestselling Afrikan Martial Arts: Discovering the Warrior Within and screenwriter / producer / director of the films, A Single Link, Rite of Passage: Initiation and Rite of Passage: The Dentist of Westminster. He is one of the leading authorities on Steamfunk – a philosophy or style of writing that combines the African and / or African American culture and approach to life with that of the steampunk philosophy and / or steampunk fiction – and writes about it, the craft of writing, Sword & Soul and Steampunk in general, at https://chroniclesofharriet.com/. He is author of eight novels – the Steamfunk bestseller, MOSES: The Chronicles of Harriet Tubman (Books 1 & 2); the Urban Science Fiction saga, Redeemer; the Sword & Soul epic, Once Upon A Time In Afrika; a Fight Fiction, New Pulp novella, Fist of Afrika; the gritty, Urban Superhero series, A Single Link and Wrath of the Siafu; the two-fisted Dieselfunk tale, The Scythe and the “Choose-Your-Own-Destiny”-style Young Adult novel, The Keys. Balogun is also contributing co-editor of two anthologies: Ki: Khanga: The Anthology and Steamfunk. Finally, Balogun is the Director and Fight Choreographer of the Steamfunk feature film, Rite of Passage, which he wrote based on the short story, Rite of Passage, by author Milton Davis and co-author of the award winning screenplay, Ngolo. You can reach him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Afrikan.Martial.Arts; on Twitter @Baba_Balogun and on Tumblr at www.tumblr.com/blog/blackspeculativefiction.

One response »

  1. Fujimoto says:

    Nice story. Will there be another Ki Khanga anthology in the future that includes this?

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