Kingdom of a thousand days
When former RN Lieutenant, JAMES KING goes looking for his missing partner Lieutenant FRANCIS FAREWELL a mysterious storm casts the handful of sailors and adventurers on to the shores of Zululand. With them is a 10-year-old Highlander CHARLES RAWDEN MACLEAN.
When SHAKA, the Zulu warrior King refuses to part with the youngest
member of the crew, the flame-haired boy is brought,fevered but defiant, to the feet of the ruthless King.
JACKABO, as Shaka calls him, not only survives but begins to make some powerful connections. After meeting the powerful diviner, LANGANI, he becomes the unwitting keeper of the most dangerous secrets in the kingdom, and is led into a web of suspicion and murderous intent.
But not even Langani, it seems, can stem the gathering flood of malignancy which begins to affect, not only the Zulu court and the mutinous shipwrecked sailors, but the future of Zululand itself.
In KINGDOM OF A THOUSAND DAYS Charles Rawden Maclean aka Jackabo – the young Highlander who becomes iQawu, Shaka’s hero – allows us mesmerising glimpses into the secret world of the loves, triumphs and betrayals surrounding Shaka and his kingdom.
It is where ‘JOHN ROSS’- one of South Africa’s most endearing historical figures – steps out of legend to tell the poignant story of what lay between himself and the most magnificent warrior king of them all, Shaka of the Zulus.
Excerpt from: Kingdom of a Thousand Days
They made their farewells an hour or so before the Mary was due to sail. Although he’d told him not to wait in the cold, Charlie’s heart lifted when he caught sight of his father on the quayside. His red hair gleamed in the rank dawn gloom, a visible link between father and son.
Lieutenant Francis Maclean raised his hand in a final salute, then easing his naval cap back on to his head, turned round and began to walk away down the cobbled quayside.
As Charlie watched his father disappear amid a flurry of dray carts and strident workmen, a wave of dislocation and shock ran through him. Clutching the ship’s rail, he pushed down the awful need to call him back, to say he didn’t want to be a mariner after all, and that he wanted to go home with him, back to the Broch, back to all that was familiar… and oh, so dear.
‘Well now, Heelander,’ a voice drawled at his shoulder. ’Whatever it is ye’re thinking, it’s far too late for it.’
The voice had a Scot’s burr, much like his own, but spiced with a flavour he couldn’t identify. Later on, he would discover that that it came from the Caribbean island of Jamaica.
Whirling around, he found himself looking into a pair of mocking blue eyes. Set in a brown, tanned face, they were offset by a shock of blonde, almost white hair, tied back in a sailor’s pigtail with a length of tarry twine.
About sixteen years old, the lad was clad in assorted layers of old, patched jackets with a long blue muffler wound round his neck, his brown legs bare below the ragged work trews, feet thrust into a pair of unlaced boots.
Reaching into the depths of his many layers, the youth produced a battered tin whistle and a silver and red mouth-organ. With a flourish, he raised the whistle to his lips.
‘Ta-ra!’ After giving him a tootle or two, he followed it with a few bars of a sea shanty on the mouth-organ. Bestowing on Charlie the impudent grin that would soon become so familiar, the exotic stranger punched him gently on the shoulder.
‘We’re bunk-mates, by the way,’ he said. ‘Apart from the common herd, that’s us. Just you follow Ned Cameron and he’ll not see you wrong.’
That particular piece of advice was one Charlie would have cause to hotly debate in the future. As he soon found out, his new shipmate could be as tricky as a ferret in a paper bag, with a carefree disregard for anyone’s rules but his own.
The blue eyes held Charlie’s for a moment in a curiously sympathetic gaze. Then he said, ‘What ever’s in your mind, Heelander, I have to tell ye, all that’s past is jist that – done an’ dusted with. So it looks like here’s where the rest o’ your life begins.’
With that, he turned and headed below decks. After hesitating for a moment or two, Charlie followed him.