Tears of Africa: A Chronicle of the Dark Continent
"There are many faces here, many people young and old, familiar and new. Good, good. There is much you must learn, for we are living in extraordinary times, and we must keep pace with the rythm of the world around us if we are to make headway in our war against the Wyrm and its minions. It may seem odd to have an outsider tell you of the goings-on in Africa, but that is only appropriate; there are things I see that the natives do not see, things I understand that they miss because they cannot look upon their circumstances with unclouded eyes. Change is in the wind, my friends, and we must be ready to embrace it when it comes. So listen well if you would learn of Africa’s secrets, for I am Walks—With—Might, and this is the truth."
The History of Gaia’s Children in Africa
The First Races
In ancient times, long before the rise of men, the world of spirit was torn apart from the world of the physical, and the very world itself wept as a result. Our Earth-Mother, Gaia, saw this calamity and despaired, for She knew that without the spirits to guide them the creatures of the world would easily lose their way. But Her wisdom is vast and timeless, and so She decided to create the Changing Breeds, creatures of the spirit world given bodies of flesh and bone. These beings, who shared the souls of animals and men, were charged with walking among the world’s creatures and guiding them according to Gaia’s will. The Ananasi were to weave, the Corax to listen, the Mokolé to remember, the Garou to destroy. She gave each of them a task to do, and they did it gladly. All was well, for a time. But as is often the case, things did not work out quite so well as Gaia had intended …
After some time, Gaia found that Her children had difficulty working together. The Ananasi wove but would not stop, the Corax listened but did not hear, the Mokolé remembered but would not speak, and the Garou… heh. The Garou destroyed, but did so indiscriminately. Saddened by this, Gaia realized that She needed to find a way to make Her creations work together, and it was to this end that She created the Bastet. They were a fierce and proud people, and Gaia asked that they help the rest of us to work together. They gladly accepted the task, but unfortunately were not… ideally suited to it. Their arrogance created resentment among the other Changers, particularly the Garou and the Ajaba. While we recognized our own weaknesses, we did not take kindly to having some young upstarts constantly pointing them out. We also took offense at the fact that they were eager to help, but only on their terms. They were independent beasts, those Bastet, and while they were well adapted to finding flaws in others’ work they were not particularly adept at learning to work well with others. The War of Rage was the result.
The Ajaba Desertion
As war raged in the north, a different sort of conflict reigned in the south. The Ajaba, the Choosers of the Slain, found their stars falling; we Garou were slaughtering them along with everyone else in the Americas and Asia, and the Bastet kept harping on them about how they were falling down on the job. lt’s no wonder, really; everyone was falling down when we werewolves were snapping at their heals. But the Ajaba were sick of it. They were content to do their job as best they could, but when they faced slaughter at the hands of the Garou and criticism from the Bastet’s mouths, they up and decided they’d had enough. If the Bastet were so damn good at figuring out what had to be done in the world, let them deal with it. The Ajaba had better things to do, or so they thought, and as far as they were concerned the world beyond their territories could just go to hell.
The betrayal of the Ajaba shocked and angered the other Fera of the world. The Bastet were particularly annoyed, since the Ajaba’s departure meant they had to take on the werehyenas’ duties — a task for which they were ill- prepared. Anger soon turned to resentment, and resentment to hatred, for by the Bastet’s reckoning the Aj aba’s refusal to cooperate with them was a sin beyond imagining. Even the Wyrm did not enrage them so, for while that being is the essence of corruption it is nonetheless a thing of nature. It is doing as its nature commands it, and as such it cannot be condemned out of hand. But the Ajaba … they were not corrupted. They did not fall to the Wyrm. Like the Ratkin, they simply tamed their backs on Gaia, abandoning Her when their job became too much for them to handle. The Bastet found this intolerable, and so decided that the werehyenas had to be punished. Thatis our way, as it has always been. And yet…
There comes a point when one goes too far. The Simba turned their hatred of the Ajaba into a science, and when the other Bastet wondered if they’d gone too far they became the enemy as well. And when the whites came to Africa, and when the vampires began to strangle the land, and when the Wyrm sank its talons into the Earth, the Simba knew that there was no price too great for punishing the guilty. They had passed the point of no return, but the other Bastet found to their horror that it was far was too late to stop them. They had become the Dark Kings of Gaia, and it would take the threat of utter annihilation to get the rest of us to do something about it.
A lot of people had to die to make us understand that.
Black Tooth and the Endless Storm
When we look back on the madness of Black Tooth, it’s tempting to write him off as an aberration. if we were to do so, however, we would be overlooking the tradition of hatred and resentment that fostered his rage, and that has existed for centuries. The Endless Storm was righteousness and pride made manifest, and while it was a perversion of all we stand for it is nonetheless instructive. We know now how it all ended; we know that the Mokolé crushed Black Tooth’s pride, that we Striders shattered his vampire allies, that the Bagheera and the Bubasti stripped him of his magical might, and that still others finally broke him, once and for all. But all of that is in the past, and it is not what concerns us now. Now we must look to the future, and in so doing seek to understand how it was that the old hatreds began to bleed away, and how the crucible of war helped us to forge an alliance that will last forever. That understanding begins with an Ajaba, the hyena known as Kisasi.
When death came to the Ajaba in the Ngorongoro in 1984, the survivors scattered to the four winds. Some ran to Europe or the Americas, but most made their way to India, which was home to their hyena Kin. Africa had become a dangerous place for them, since Black Tooth and his pride now ruled the whole of the continent. Few chose to weather the storm’s winds, but those who did were crafty and tenacious out of necessity. One of these, a mere child to look at her, was Kisasi, the Ajaba who barely understood the meaning of her own name. For you see, she was a hyena, and while she hated lions as much as any hyena could she was not plagued by a thirst for vengeance..But that was the name she was given when she underwent her First Change, and so that was the name she called her own from then on.
Kisasi was more interested in survival than anything else, and she understood the land in ways that most of her kin could not. They spoke of vengeance and politics, but what did that matter to her? Those were abstract concepts, and she had more primal concerns. Gaia spoke to her in a way normally reserved for the males of her clan, and it was thus that she was blessed with wisdom instead of rage. So it was that she cast off the hateful legacy of her elders, vowing to chart her own course as she eked out a living on the plains of the Serengeti. Her fellows called her foolish and a traitor, but she didn’t care. She ignored their silly human ways, scoffed at the notion of hatred for hatred’s sake, and instead used the land to help Gaia as best she could. This, ofcourse, was her greatest virtue; she recognized the pulse of Gaia around her, and knew that there had to be more to life than hating the lions and preying upon the weak. This knowledge led to curiosity, and that curiosity opened the door for many things indeed.
The Leopard and the Hyena Cub
I cannot imagine what must have gone through old Kiva’s mind when she first laid eyes on Kisasi; what Ajaba could be mad enough to be traveling alone in Africa? Indeed, what Ajaba would be so bold as to walk right up to a leopard and ask her what she was doing? And yet, this is exactly what Kisasi did. As fate would have it, she picked the right leopard; we all know Kiva isn’t exactly known for her temper, and I daresay it would take the Wyrm itself to do anything more than mildly irritate her, such is the extent of her control over her Rage. And so the Bagheera and the Ajaba proceeded to have a conversation, wherein Kiva told the young pup all she knew of Gaia and their role in Her grand design, and of the sorrowful history that had led to the massacre in Ngorongoro. She spoke of Black Tooth, and of why he had been allowed to become so fearsomely powerful, and of how no one knew what to do about him now. And the others. .. she mentioned the others, too, I think. The Mokolé and the Garou and the Bubasti and all the rest of Gaia’s children. When Kisasi heard of the great power of the Mokolé, and of the Garou’s role as Gaia’s teeth, and of all of the mystic might ofthe Bubasti and the Bagheera, she asked her ersatz mentor why they didn’t all just team up and get rid of Black Tooth once and for all. Ah, the wisdom of the young!
Kiva told her this probably wasn`t going to happen, seeing as how the various Breeds didn’t really get along very well, and Kisasi decided on the spot that this was a dumb and foolish thing, and that she would just have to fix it. It would seem that one should not underestimate the power of a tenacious young Ajaba— particularly one prone to positive thinking.
Making Friends Along the Nile
Since the Bagheera have relatively good ties with the werecrocodiles who share their territories, Kisasi decided they’d be a good place to start. I’m not sure why Kiva went along with the pup’s insane plan; perhaps she was just humoring the child, or perhaps she figured that things couldn’t get much worse without triggering the Apocalypse itself. With nothing to lose, then, the two set out to find the Mokolé. Now, the Mokolé are, by nature, rather placid sorts. We Striders have had an agreement with them for years, staying away from them at worstl and working with them on occasion in kinder times. This is the way it has to be; one cannot fight the vampires in Egypt if one is fighting his friends as well, and we realized that long ago. Not surprisingly, then, the crocodiles tend to be rather open-minded, at least by the standards of the Fera. When a Bastet and an Ajaba showed up at their sacred watering holes, the one looking put upon and the other with wagging tail, the Mokolé must have been rather curious to say the least.
Curious they were, but that is all. When Kisasi asked for their assistance against Black Tooth, they were unmoved; it was not, after all, their department. They were sympathetic, to be sure, but they were Gaia’s memory, not Her warriors. If Kisasi was bent on working against Black Tooth, they would offer her and her kin aid and shelter, but they would not fight for her unless there was no other way to do what needed to be done. She would have to go elsewhere for aid, they said. She would have to come to us. To the Garou.
The Strider’s Demands
Kisasi was an enthusiastic child, but she was not foolish. The thought of dealing with the Garou directly frightened her very nearly as much as facing the Simba did, and she was uncertain as to how to proceed at this point. But the Mokolé gave her some names to work with, and so with a bit of effort she found a Strider sept to speak to.
The results were not encouraging.
When we first heard of Kisasi’s scheme, we thought it was a nice idea. It was encouraging to find an Ajaba who actually gave a damn for once, and the peace and cooperation she spoke of was all nice and idyllic. But what she was suggesting was a concerted effort — one that would generate considerable casualties — to take down Black Tooth once and for all. The question we had, though, was this: then what? What was the point of clearing out Black Tooth’s pride if some other Simba, or a vampire, or who knows what else, would just step in to take his place? No, we said. Not good enough. If she wanted our help, she would need to convince us that something good would come of it. Something lasting. She would need to find a new king for Africa’s Changing Breeds.
Our demands of Kisasi were great, but they were necessary. The Bastet only truly respect their own, and we knew that, for all their hatred of the Simba, they nonetheless recognized the brutes as the closest thing catkind had to kings, and therefore lords of Africa as well. We Garou and the Mokolé might look askance at that, but our perceptions don’t much matter; Africa belongs to the cats more than anyone else, and if we were to shake things up down there we needed proof that the cats could look after things on their own. Kisasi didn’t care for that much; Kiva liked it even less. But that wily old Bagheera had an intriguing idea, one we didn’t learn about until after the fact.
Kisasi’s next stop was farther south, far beyond the domains of Black Tooth and his pride. There was a place in Africa even they wouldn’t go, and for good reason: They weren’t the only Simba game in town. Long ago, the Mayi’o separated from the rest of their kin and settled in the Kalahari, where they adopted a more peaceful and spiritual existence (how ironic that they prey on elephants there, far more fearsome prey than any the Amadu’o would care to tackle!). If they could be convinced to enter the fray… but then, there was the rub. The Mayi’o left Simba society for a reason, after all. They wanted no part of it. How, then, could Kisasi tempt them to rejoin Africa’s Changing Breeds, and help them to end the scourge of Black Tooth?
Only Kisasi and the Mayi’o king, Hakimu, know what happened next. But I do know that Hakimu rebuffed her time and again, and that she would not back down. How sad and pitiful she must have looked, terrified and alone, a tiny Ajaba child standing firm in the face of a Simba’s rage! But how proud, too; whatever he demanded of her, she was willing to provide, and her word stood as bond for all the Ajaba of the world. Hate the Simba though they may, none could ignore the possibility of a life without war, without being hunted, without being reviled for the sins of their ancestors. Somehow, Kisasi redeemed her race in the eyes of the Mayi’o, and as long as she stands as their queen the wounds of the past will not be reopened.
With Hakimu and his pride committed, Kisasi returned to us once again. This was not the same woman who had come begging for our help in the past, however. Gone was the bright-eyed child, the little hyena who found the notion of fighting one’s kin absurd. In her place stood a young woman with fire in her eyes, and this time she did not request our help — she demanded it, reminding us of our duties to Gaia and our pacts with the spirits who called Africa home. She had spoken to the Mokolé, and to the Bagheera, and to the Mayi’o, and to us. She knew what was at stake, and she knew this was not a game. We could not possibly refuse her, she said, because doing so would mean turning our backs on Gaia just as the Ajaba had in the past. She was proud and defiant, supremely confident in the righteousness of her quest. We looked at her through hard eyes, embittered as we were in our war against Black Tooth’s allies in the north, and we resented her impudence. Be that as it may, however, we knew something else as well- she was right. It was time to end things, time to put the dark king of Africa in his place as we should have long ago.
It was time to go to war.
The war with Black Tooth was long and bloody, but it finally ended with the utter annihilation of his pride and all who supported them. The Garou of the south, the Kucha Ekundu, destroyed the Simba’s feline Kin, and we Striders disemboweled his vampiric support. The Mokolé erupted from their wallows to crush the Endless Storm, and the Bagheera stripped the errant king of his most potent magics. When all was said and done only Black Tooth’s skull remained, his body torn to ribbons and his soul destroyed for all eternity. Even Malfeas cannot claim him now; his hold on the world is broken forever.
With the battle ended, the real story of Africa’s Fera began to take shape. The Amadu`o Simba were disgraced, and the Mayi’o rose from the Kalahari to take their place among Gaia’s defenders. They had placed a terrible burden on Kisasi’s shoulders, one that bound the two races in a way the rest of us couldn’t understand. In so doing, they had formed the basis for a much larger coalition of interests: if the Ajaba and the Simba were to work together, how much of a stretch was it to include the other Changers? The Bubasti, Mokolé, and we Silent Striders already had an accord of sorts in Egypt, and both the Bubasti and the Simba had ties to the Bagheera. Once we recognized the bonds we all shared, the next step seemed obvious. We had to extend our bonds of cooperation into an agreement to work to» gether in the future as we had in our efforts to topple Black Tooth. We had to create a covenant, a sacred pact that would amount to more than empty promises and whispered words of cooperation.
We needed an
The Sept of the Bloodied Rock