The Black Power Interviews: Are You Experienced?

Who are you? How long have you been a superhero?

Call me Foxy Lady.

The one in the black trench coat, shirt and trousers with the red scarf-bandanna around her lower face is the Red Jaw.

The luchador over there is Mr. Strong.

The woman fidgeting in her seat, dressed in the Buddhist nun’s garb and faceless mask is the Flaming Calm Before the Storm…

Umm… she’s starting to glow… are we in danger of her burning down the place?

Not as long as she keeps moving.

Finally, that ten-foot steel coil over there is Emperor Coil.

Oh, I thought that was one of your weapons.

(Emperor Coil) Hey, watch it with the anti-coil racism!

How is that racist? Coils are not a race.

(Emperor Coil) A racist WOULD say that. Next you’ll be building a wall!

Umm… like the Bata Taun wall at the border of the Canadian-Japanese Union territories?

That would only work if you had a forty-foot tall samurai wolf, like the Canadian-Japanese Union. And to answer your question, my weapons are these two rapiers… this pistol… and these two guitars on his back.

And your incredible powers.

Yeah… those, too. As far as how long I’ve been a superhero… well, for quite a while, but I had gone into retirement and was happy just being a single father when these good people convinced me the world needed me to be much more.

So they inspired you to… wait… you said single father. Don’t you mean single MOTHER… Foxy LADY?

Long story… that you can read in Are You Experienced? my story in Black Power: The Superhero Anthology.

So, who were some of your favorite superheroes growing up?

Were? Those superheroes still exist. In fact, it was those superheroes who caused the collapse… AND who are rebuilding the world and taking it back. I was one of those superheroes.

I meant in comic books. You DO have comic books in your world?

MY world is YOUR world. I’m from a different time, apparently. My grandma used to read comics, though. She mentioned loving some guy called Brotherman… and some series called Jagun Jagun Lewa, or something like that.

Tell us a bit about the chronicler of your adventures in BLACK POWER: A Superhero Anthology.

The Red Jaw can tell you better than I can. She recruited him… and me.

Please, Ms. Jaw… if you will?

(Red Jaw) Alhamdulillah! It would be my honor…

Liberty Blair Charissage is the chronicler of our story – and the story of the resurrection of Foxy Lady – in Black Power: The Superhero Anthology. He is a fan of obscure, weird fiction, surrealist films, and psychedelic 60’s music. He has been telling stories since he was three, and started writing when he was thirteen. He attends university in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.

Thank you all, for a great interview!

(Mr. Strong) Hold up! I didn’t get to say anything. (the Flaming Calm Before the Storm) Me either!

(Emperor Coil) See. Racist!

Umm… apologies. What would you like to say?

(Mr. Strong and the Flaming Calm Before the Storm) Goodbye!

*Sigh* Goodbye! And Goodbye, dear reader. Check back tomorrow for more Black Power Interviews!

The Black Power Interviews: Ghost

Who are you? How long have you been a superhero?

My name is Malik. My last name isn’t important. I have been what you would call a superhero since I acquired the Ghost tech.

You wouldn’t call yourself a superhero?

I would call myself a survivor… and sensible. Running around in a cape and a g-string isn’t sensible and will probably get a fool killed, too.

What is the difference between a superhero and a vigilante?

A superhero is crazy as batshit. A vigilante is crazy as batshit and mad as batshit on your sharkskin suit.

DO Black Heroes Matter? If so, why?

Of course, they do. Why? Because our heroes define our values. Without them, we don’t value much… not even our lives.

What do you think about the current mainstream interest in Black characters in comic books?

It’s about time folks recognized how dope Black people are; especially us. Of course, mainstream interests are fickle, so longevity is with the independent Black comic book creators.

Who were some of your favorite heroes growing up?

Nat Turner, Harriet Tubman, and Buck, from that old Buck and the Preacher movie.

What about superheroes?

I really dig Luke Cage. He reminds me of my best friend Bryce – big, black, strong, smart and a ladies’ man.

You’re NOT a ladies’ man?

I’m a family man.

That’s admirable! Any other favorite superheroes?

I really like Brotherman. His only powers are his wits, his determination and his love for his people, but that’s enough to change the world and to ensure that “everything’s gonna be alright.”

Tell us a bit about the chronicler of your adventures in BLACK POWER: The Superhero Anthology.

I allowed this brother named Milton Davis to tell my story, which is entitled Ghost. I gave that allowance because Davis is a scientist, like some folks very close to me. I agreed to let the story be told in Black Power: The Superhero Anthology because the anthology is cutting edge, like my tech.

What is so cutting edge about the anthology?

First, and foremost, all the stories are about Black superheroes, which you rarely see much of. Yes, we are often the sidekick, or the advisor to the white hero, but rarely are we the hero ourselves.

Second, the stories in Black Power: The Superhero Anthology are not your typical cookie-cutter “spandex” stories. They are original, bold and deal with current issues without being preachy, or corny as hell.

Tell us more about Mr. Davis.

Milton Davis is owner of MVmedia, LLC , a micro publishing company specializing in Science Fiction, Fantasy and Sword and Soul. Milton is the author of ten novels; his most recent is the Steamfunk adventure From Here to Timbuktu. He is the editor and co-editor of seven anthologies; The City,  Dark Universe with Gene Peterson; Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology and Griots: Sisters of the Spear, with Charles R. Saunders; and The Ki Khanga Anthology , the Steamfunk! anthology, and the Dieselfunk anthology with Balogun Ojetade. MVmedia has also published Once Upon A Time in Afrika by Balogun Ojetade and Abegoni: First Calling by Sword and Soul creator and icon Charles R. Saunders.

Milton resides in Metro Atlanta with his wife Vickie and his children Brandon and Alana.

So what powers does your tech provide you with? What can you… Malik? Malik, where are you? Malik!

Umm…I guess this concludes this session. Check back tomorrow as we continue the Black Power Interviews.

Black Power: The Superhero Anthology is available NOW!

This groundbreaking anthology brings together twenty authors to craft original short superhero stories.

Black Power: The Superhero Anthology offers BANG-POW-THOOM action, searing satire, and thoughtful social commentary from a people too often overlooked in mainstream comic books and heroic cinema and television.

The superheroes in Black Power: The Superhero Anthology come from all walks of life. Some have superpowers that make them something more, or less, than human, but others face a dangerous world with only their wits and willpower to aid them. Some of the heroes fight against racism, sexism, gang violence and police brutality. Others combat evil on a cosmic scale. ALL of the stories are entertaining and enlightening.

Black Heroes Matter. Read Black Power: The Superhero Anthology and find out just how much!

Black Power

NGOLO: The Graphic Novel Is Coming!

In 2014, authors Balogun Ojetade and Milton Davis joined forces to create the near-future Afrikan Martial Arts screenplay, Ngolo. That screenplay went on to win Best Screenplay at the 2014 Urban Action Showcase competition in New York.

Today, we are happy to announce that MVmedia, Roaring Lions Productions (Atlanta, GA) and Pedastudio Ltd. (Lagos, Nigeria) are joining forces to produce the Ngolo graphic novel!

We will soon launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to produce this exciting book that will also act as the storyboards for the Ngolo movie, which will go into production later this year.

Stay tuned for more details!

Here’s a sneak peek, courtesy of Milton Davis, Peter Daniel and Balogun Ojetade:

Ngolo

Ngolo

NubiaOne Fest Rises this summer as Blacktasticon (SOBSFCon) satellite!

The Co-Chairs of Blacktasticon (SOBSFCon) have decided to present Blacktasticon every two years, so the next convention will be in the summer of 2018.

Bummed out? Cheer up…NubiaOne Fest is coming THIS June 17th and it is guaranteed to be hotter than fish grease!

NubiaOne is the next level of Black Speculative Fiction – a multi-media platform focusing on the development and distribution of Black Speculative Fiction entertainment. The platform consists of various social media sites, including the NubiaOne Channel, which will soon feature original short and feature films and webseries.

NubiaOne has partnered with the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History to bring you a full day of Black Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror created by – and about – heroes and sheroes of Afrikan descent.

NubiaOne Fest features dynamic, educational, entertaining and interactive panel discussions and workshops, an art exhibit, cosplay photoshoot sessions, and vendors of comic books, novels, Afrikan artifacts and maybe even gourmet pot pie, vegan chocolate cake and other goodies.

More details coming soon.

Don’t miss it!

NubiaOne Fest

A Sneak Peek at the Ki Khanga Custom Playing Card Deck!

With the release of Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game in about a month, the custom cards will release shortly thereafter.

Here is a sneak peek. The artwork – by James Eugene – is stunning!

These custom cards are sure to enhance your Ki Khanga gaming sessions AND your Spades, Solitaire, Go Fish, Poker and Pitty-Pat games, too.

Ki Khanga Cards

 

The Father of Sword and Soul Speaks: Ki Khanga: Always Something New Out of Africa

Charles R. Saunders, the Father of Sword and Soul and the man who coined the term, chimes in on Ki Khanga.
Read on, and enjoy!

Diversity is the watchword for the Africa of the world we know. In terms of differences in climate, culture and creativity, the continent that gave birth to humanity is beyond compare. Language alone is one example: more than 700 distinct tongues are spoken in Africa. And there is more genetic variation among the African people than there is anywhere else in the world.
It is no wonder, then, that such a place can serve as a nexus for the literature of the imagination – a foundation upon which new additions to the already vast history and mythology that thrived in Africa during pre-colonial times can be built.
Ki-Khanga is one of those additions.
Ki-Khanga is an Africa that could have been, located in a world that might have been. Sprung from the fertile minds of Milton J. Davis and Balogun Ojetade, Ki-Khanga is a place of magic and mystery, heroism and horror, spears and seduction. It is a place roiled by the long-reaching repercussions of an ancient feud between pre-human races and the subsequent wrath of an affronted deity. Not only does magic work in Ki-Khanga – magic defines Ki-Khanga, in more ways than one.
Conceived originally as the setting for a forthcoming role-playing game, Ki-Khanga provides fertile ground for Sword and Soul fiction as well. Together, Milton and Balogun have spun a series of fantasy tales for this book that do full justice to the alternate Africa they’ve created. The stories take place in a wide range of cultural backgrounds that both mirror and diverge from those in the Africa of our world’s past, from Khem (Egypt) to Oyo to Zimbabwe. Creatures from both African folklore and the authors’ fertile imaginations abound.
The human characters populating Ki-Khanga are memorable as well. In the stories in this book, you will meet the likes of Nubia, a vengeful warrior-woman; Adjoa and Kwadjo, a pair of royal twins who vie for their father’s throne; the Old Hunter, who protects his homeland from arcane threats; Kiro, a fisherman who is more than he appears to be; Shaigu and Pandare, a team of reluctant assassins; Timneet, a sorceress and patient mentor; Akhu, an inventor and animal-trainer extraordinaire; Edfu, a foppish noble who must defend a fortress against a mystical threat; Anju, a prince who lives in the shadow of a dire prophecy; Akinah, a king’s daughter who is also a sorceress; Omolewa, a resourceful young woman with a ferret and a secret; Zaakah, a tattooed woman who is a potent user of magic; Omari Ket, a mercenary warrior who squeezes out of scrapes he just can’t seem to avoid getting into …
This anthology is more than just an introduction to the wonders of Ki-Khanga; it’s an immersion.
With the breadth and depth of their new and different Africa and its inhabitants, Milton and Balogun have accomplished a significant feat of world-building and character-creation. It is a milestone in the continuing evolution of Sword and Soul.
There are twelve days left for you to help make history as we give the world its very first Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game!
Ki Khanga
Ki Khanga
Ki Khanga

9 Reasons YOU (and Your Children) Should Play Ki Khanga

Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game is a table top role-playing game.

Yeah, I know, tabletop RPGs have long been associated with nerdy teenage boys huddled around a table in someone’s mother’s basement living out their fantasies of being the hero. This image – along with a renewed interest in role-playing games among our youth – has been renewed with the hit Netflix series, Stranger Things. This love letter to the ‘80s horror and science fiction pop culture that captivated a generation is set in 1983 Indiana, where a young, nerdy boy vanishes into thin air after playing a tabletop role-playing game with his nerdy friends and fellow gamers, who – along with the boy’s family and a few others – become the heroes of the story. As they search for answers, they are drawn into an extraordinary mystery involving top-secret government experiments, terrifying supernatural forces and one very strange little girl. All the while, the children rely on strategies and principles they learned from playing the tabletop role-playing game.

Ki KhangaWhile so-called nerds – and self-proclaimed “blerds” (“Black nerds”) – DO play tabletop AND MMO-RPGs (role-playing games), Ki Khanga has something for everyone. In fact, here are 9 reasons why YOU – and certainly any tween or teen you know – should play Ki Khanga:

1. You Get to Be the Hero of the Story

Ki Khanga, similar to, but even more so than, video games, gives you the chance to be the hero. What happens throughout the game is largely up to the players, who all have an equal chance to “save the day.” Or, if being a hero doesn’t appeal to you, playing a villain or playing an anti-hero is also acceptable.

You can be anybody you want to be; YOU have a lot of freedom when it comes to creating your character. Unlike many games that limit you to a certain character class, Ki Khanga; The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game gives you complete control of who your character is.

2. Stress Relief

In Ki Khanga you can experience anything from one on one bar brawls, to solving an ancient mystery, to battles of epic proportions. Nothing is more satisfying – or more stress relieving – than hearing the Griot (the Game Master) describe how you met an enemy, or an obstacle, and you overcame it.

3. The Sense of Camaraderie You Develop

A group of three or more people is required to play Ki Khanga – one person to be the Griot, and then, at the very least, two people to play. Since the average campaign lasts months, if not years in some cases, you tend to build a bond with the people you play with, both in, and out of game. As you defeat wicked sorcerers, hoard enchanted treasure, and train your skills and abilities to a razor’s edge, you start to develop a strong camaraderie between yourself and the other players.

4. You Learn to Work Together

True to the universal African principle of success through cooperation and community, Ki Khanga is a cooperative game. In order to excel you have to work with the rest of your party to accomplish goals and overcome adversity. Ki Khanga provides no space for any one person to hog the spotlight and act alone. Learning to work effectively with others in a Ki Khanga environment is a good way to foster transferable, real-life skills that are easily applied to situations in your everyday life.

5. You Learn to Solve Problems

After you have learned to work together you need to learn to solve problems. Ki Khanga is a thinking man and woman’s game. You are often presented with challenging scenarios and have to come up with solutions given the resources at your immediate disposal. Solving these problems within the parameters of Ki Khanga is a lot of fun. Most Ki Khanga adventures enforce the idea that there is almost always more than one way to solve a problem, and that you should not always take the predicable course of action.

6. Learn Practical Applications for Math

Ki KhangaKi Khanga involves some mathematics. But do not worry; it all makes sense in the context of the game. Every action that requires the playing of cards is an extension of a probability matrix. Every time you attack with your sword and play one or more cards to determine whether you hit your opponent or not, you are testing the probability and statistical likelihood of hitting the opponent. When you decide to take one weapon over another because it has a better attack modifier you are thinking about probability and statistics. Every time you are in battle and you determine the size of your fireball blast and who is affected or not because of cover, you are applying the basics of geometry. The math is not in your face, but it IS there. Players will often number crunch to create the most optimized character – another in-game application of math.

Playing role-playing games, and especially creating adventures, developed my love for math and greatly improved my math skills. Math could actually be used to have fun? Once I realized every game uses math to some degree, math became my second favorite subject in school, after Creative Writing.

7. It Stretches Your Imagination

Ki KhangaAlthough I have never actually seen a joka – a dragon – or slain a tokoloshe, I can picture what each creature looks like with incredibly accuracy. During a Ki Khanga game the Griot describes the setting, the supporting characters and the events and it is up to the players to fully imagine what these things look like. A friend of mine often refers to playing Ki Khanga as Theater of the Mind. The more detailed the description,s the easier it is to picture in your mind exactly what the situation looks like. Today there are video games that present most of the visual elements for you, but Ki Khanga has always been – and will always be – played in the imagination of the people.

8. You Learn to Love Research

Ki KhangaKi Khanga Co-Creator, Milton Davis and I have taken it upon ourselves to make Ki Khanga: The Sword And Soul Role-Playing Game as cool as possible. To make Ki Khanga more interesting we have done extensive research on African history, politics, geography, sociology, folklore, theology, architecture and warfare. When was the last time YOU read a book or encyclope because you wanted to and not because you were doing an assignment for some class? My love for Ki Khanga has motivated me to visit museums and art galleries. I have grown much more cultured and educated in the process of fact-finding for Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game.

9. To Have Fun

Ki KhangaNo matter what your reason(s) for playing Ki Khanga, HAVING FUN should be somewhere at the top of the list. After all, Ki Khanga IS a game. It may not be the kind of game that has winners and losers – which makes it even COOLER – but it is still a game; a game that will provide you…and your children…and your children’s children a lifetime of ever-increasing enjoyment.

 

We have reached our 2nd Stretch Goal with our crowd-funding efforts for Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game and are now racing toward the 3rd Stretch Goal. With YOUR help, we will get there in no time.

Get ready for YOUR adventure in Ki Khanga to begin!

 

Custom Ki Khanga Cards Coming! Choose YOUR Favorite Card!

Ki KhangaThank you, to each and every one of you for deciding to join our journey to Ki Khanga!

We are less than $200 dollars from those custom playing cards for this exciting game!

Excitement over the cards has led to much discussion about playing cards as of late.

Playing cards, used for games and magic, are so familiar, and so beloved, yet we know very little about the way we perceive and think about them. Are some cards more memorable than others? Are some easier to identify?

Recently, a study was conducted that tested if some playing cards are easier to spot than others.

Ki KhangaNinety-six students were shown visual streams of 26 playing cards on a computer, each displayed for a tenth of a second, and they had to say if a certain target card was present in the stream or not. The students detected the Ace of Spades more easily than any other card, and they detected Aces in general more easily than other cards – probably because of their simple, distinct pattern.

Surprisingly, face cards – Jacks, Queens, Kings and Jokers – were no easier to spot than number cards, despite being more distinctive. Another curious finding was the students’ particular tendency to say the two red sixes (Six of Hearts and Six of Diamonds) were present when they were not. It is not clear why.

Ki KhangaTo test how memorable particular cards are, another study was done. The students saw a stream of cards, each displayed for a quarter of a second, and then they were asked to say whether a particular card had been in the stream or not. Again, the Ace of Spades especially, and all Aces to a lesser extent, were more memorable than other cards.

What about likeability? Students were shown pairs of cards and in each case had to say which they preferred. Regarding numerical value, the participants liked the highest (10) and lowest (2) cards the most. And they had a tendency to prefer Spades and Hearts over Clubs and Diamonds – maybe because of their rank in games, or their curved shape. Two cards were especially popular – the Ace of Hearts and the King of Hearts. There was also a gender difference in taste. Men tended to prefer higher value cards and women to prefer lower value cards.

Ki KhangaFinally, the researchers looked at the verbal and visual accessibility of cards. To do this they asked a new batch of hundreds of students to “Name a playing card” or to “Visualize a playing card” and then say which it was. There was a strong bias for naming the Ace of Spades, followed by the Queen of Hearts and then other high-ranking cards. When participants chose a number card, there was a bias for naming 3s and 7s the most and 6s the least (a phenomenon well known by magicians). Overall, cards from the Spades and Hearts were named more than the other two suits. There was a gender difference again: men tended to name the Queen of Hearts more than women, and women more often named the King of Hearts than men. These same results were pretty much repeated when participants were asked to visualize a card before naming it.

Which playing card do YOU like best?

When you play Ki Khanga: The Sword and Soul Role-Playing Game, will you play with a standard deck of playing cards, or with the custom Ki Khanga playing cards?

Ki Khanga

Mbaya Mbwa (Bad Dog): A Ki Khanga Story

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!”