Prologue to The Ebony Throne by Thomas Day (translated by Michael Shreve). Thanks to Le Bélial’ for this post.
Prologue – The Prophecy
We Zulus have a prophecy.
It dates back to the time when the Serpent-Of-Living-Waters, Great Lion, White Elephant, Marabou-Tall-As-A-Tree, Crocodile-With-Emerald-Eyes and Silver-Back-Gorilla were living as brothers on the wooded hillsides of Mount Mwenezi, in the little lake nestled there, or near the raging river flowing down it. It dates back to the time when the sorceress Isangoma was young and so beautiful that every moon men died by the dozens, unable to wrestle even one spark out of the fire of her love which, as everyone knew, burned only for the gods and their secrets. It dates back to the time when we lived happily, in perfect harmony with the wildest nature to which every member of our tribe owed the greatest respect.
This prophecy says that one day a child with great powers will be born and with him will begin an era during which “Amazulu” will spell terror and death to all the people of the N’guni nations and nearby countries all the way to the sea to the south, to the west and to the east, all the way to the Mountains-of-the-Moon to the north.
As long as he does not try to take a power that is not of his ancestors, this child will not stop strengthening his hold over the world, the animals and the men who populate it. He will be a warrior, a king and then emperor, like Mwene Mutapa was generations before him. He will know a kingdom without real borders and the home of his enemy, wherever it may be, will be the worst place on earth.
However, one ill-fated day, confronted by an enemy come out of nowhere, this emperor, who will be a man above all, will have a choice to make. If he dishonors the blood that flows in his veins, which is that of his father, of his father’s father, and of thousands of other honorable ancestors before them, then it will be from his blood that the betrayal will come; one of his closest relatives will cause his fall from the kingdom of men to that of the gods, and in this case, for the much dreaded sovereign, betrayed but victorious a thousand times before the betrayal, no fall will be more superb and his name will never fall into oblivion. On the other hand, if he decides not to betray his blood, then for the first time he will know failure, a total defeat that will, for the most part, cause his fall into oblivion, abandoning the N’gunis to a life of servitude, neither happy nor tragic, during which their hands will never hold the reins of their own destiny.
We Zulus have a prophecy, but at nightfall, we never agree on what choice should be made by the exceptional child who has been heralded to us for so long. Shouts may burst out, blows may erupt, because for the warrior glory is more important than happiness, but for the people happiness is more important than glory.