Ntomo can feel his ban failing, the creeping rot of undeath taking root deep within his muscles. Two days prior, he felt fine. Yesterday, he was stiff and sore. Today, he can hardly move without inducing a new wave of exhaustion. What fate will tomorrow hold?
If nothing changes, he will cross mahafra within the week. Will the time spent here be enough? There were many lessons he had learned, many experiences once in a lifetime, but none felt fundamental to his being. None which awakened him in the night, and altered the very journey of his life from then on. Throughout his entire being, Ntomo knows he has yet to learn that truth which required his return. The ban, and all the tribe’s resources that went into it, would be for naught.
The prospect of crossing is not frightening, but the idea of that terrible waste leaves the taste of alkaline in his mouth.
Deep within the holds of the Man’s Promise, away from the eyes of the ben kudu, Ntomo disrobes. The slight shivers which had been coursing through his muscles develop into a rhythmic tremor as he kneels in that empty darkness. The wooden planks beneath his knees offer little comfort as he settles into a position of meditation.
“Though this one is far from the embrace of the Winye and wisdom of the wendifa, they hope a wendo of these seas may hear their words, and carry them along.”
“This ban grows cold, and I will cross mahafra without knowing what must be known. This one travels the path blindly, and must be led from danger.”
After several minutes, he utters a final statement, in a tone lower than before.
“This one is indebted to Kindo Kane. Should I re-enter Pauxye, the debt will not matter. The One Who Stands at the Gate may look favorably upon those who ensure that this payment is delivered. This one travels the path blindly, and must be led from danger.”
It is several hours before silence leads to clarity. Hours more before clarity leads to revelation. Ntomo stands, joints popping, and slowly dresses again. As he ascends to the main deck, a certainty governs his step that was not present before.