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Author's note: Picture, courtesy of `SKIDMORE .EDU'
* BEKO *
Beko was a vain, petty, self serving, and unforgiving person. By birth he was the chieftain of a large tribe of Africans. As a child he was unliked and, therefore, unwanted by the other children. His stealth and his natural instincts kept him alive.
During his youth he added deviousness to his other talents and the fact that his father was chief allowed him to give commands to others who would have otherwise ignored him.
When he had reached manhood, after a clash with his father, he saw to it that his father died during a battle with a neighbouring tribe.
His qualities as a leader, both during peace and time of battle, were often questioned, but never to his face. His success in battle was due more to the skill of his warriors than to his commanding.
Though he eventually lost a major battle with the Ewe, Beko never admitted that he had been outmanoeuvred by a more skilled tactician. He was often heard to complain that he had only lost because he had faced a numerically superior foe.
Peace never set well with Beko, especially since he wasn't the instigator of that peace. Nor did it set well with him that it was through the Ewe and their alliance with neighbouring tribes that they were able to repel slavers that trekked overland and attacked their outer perimeters.
With the death of his son, which Beko knew was murder, for, after all, neither the Witch Doctor nor the white God had tried to restore Gidado to life, he discontinued all semblance of communication with the King, except when necessary.
Normally, once or twice a year invaders from the East would come cross country looking for slaves and, until the formation of the alliance, had usually been successful, despite losses, to take away some of his people.
Now Beko laid a trap for the slavers. Orders were given, and rewards were offered, to capture some slavers alive. Usually the slavers were fierce fighters and were never taken alive but the odd one over the next couple of years was captured. If, however, the language barrier was insurmountable Beko had them buried alive.
Eventually, one spring, Beko's warriors were able to surround a small squad of slavers and bring them before their chief. Of the seven men one was able to communicate fairly fluently, the others were put to death.
Beko sent the seventh man back to the leader of his expedition to arrange a truce.
It was two months before the runner returned to the village, bearing a token which allowed him to pass through the sentries unharmed.
Beko ventured forth into the jungle and met with the man's leader. A man from the far East with blacker skin than Beko's and, as Beko would learn, a blacker heart.
With the runner interpreting, Beko spent two days negotiating with the leader of the slavers who agreed to return the next spring with more men.
The following year the prearranged meeting took place and Beko guided the slavers through his lands and showed them the way to surround the village of the King. In the early dawn the slavers, silently, entered the village and awoke the sleeping people of the Ewe.
The ship that Beko had told the slavers about was still in the little harbour. Beside it, to Beko's amazement, as he stood crowing before Mai Mobolaji, were two Portuguese slavers. What Beko didn't know was that the ships were virtually empty, the sailors were not aboard.
During the night the sailors had penetrated the jungle and now crept through the village behind Beko's men. Beko's warriors were surprised and surrounded, with sailors behind, between them and the jungle, and slavers in front, between them and the water.
The fight was short. Beko, and his warriors, were loaded into the holds of the ships.
The slavers knew that they could not capture one hundred percent of the people and at least one would run to the neighbouring villages. Rather than try to return to whence they had come, which would have meant facing the wrath of the alliance, they too, as had been prearranged, boarded the slavers.
Though they went willingly aboard the vessels they soon found themselves stacked into the holds like so much cordwood along with the other natives. Black skin was worth gold in the Americas and the Portuguese were not about to give free passage to anyone who didn't have white skin.
The Portuguese had brought with them additional sailors to man the German slave ship that had ridden at anchor these past years. The three ships left with the ebbing tide. Long before the neighbouring villages of the alliance could come to the aid of the Ewe.
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