There have been many versions of this story, and many great acts of heroism and bona fide leadership have been attributed to her name. However, the greatest act of leadership she ever exhibited has gone unnoticed by many for centuries now. Here is a true leader who chose duty over her own heart’s desire. Let me take you to a time before now; a time where freedom was a privilege fought for. Let me tell you of a story that has truly been lost in the sands of time…at least, until now.
It was in a time where leaders were not merely born but made. Being of royal blood did not ensure your story will be told. Though born of royal blood, she was well aware of this truth. This is the time she was born into; a man’s world as some called it. Indeed, she might not have been the prettiest of maidens, but she had a heart like no other; a heart made of nothing short of stern stuff. This was where her true beauty lay. She was as much the pride of her parents even at a tender age, she was like no other girl in the kingdom, and as such, she was their daily source of worry and concern. Alongside her brother- the soon to be king of the empire- she grew stronger, wiser and much more daunting.
Her brother became king, appointing her queen mother at a rather young age; but it was obvious no one else could occupy that seat. This was during the arrival and spread of the foreign invaders. Even in such times, a civil war broke. For over a year the stability of the kingdom was threatened. To prevent further breakdown of the empire, she sought the permission of her brother, the king to assemble fifteen remarkable individuals to stand by her and the kingdom, and provide good counsel and support; these fifteen later came to be known as “The Fifteen Advisors”. She eventually left the kingdom to embark on an expedition to search for the fifteen; a five-year journey that none but her brother and later the “Fifteen Advisors” could talk of. None of their subjects knew of what really happened on this expedition.
It had not been long after she embarked on this journey that she met her first challenge; one of many to come. Yet this set a ball rolling, one that changed her perception of the world as she had come to know it. She was attacked by bandits as she sat by a fire she had made one evening. She held her own against a group of seven, retiring three permanently. She was eventually overpowered and knocked out. She slowly woke up to find her hands and legs bound. She noticed her attackers lying on the ground; to her surprise, they had been taken care of. Her heart raced, her eyes flared with anger as she saw a pale-skinned foreigner sitting across her in front of the fire, a musket on his lap. He had noticed she had regained consciousness. He said something in what seemed to be his native tongue, which she did not understand. He got up from where he sat; hands pointed to the sky and approached her. She sat there and stared unflinching, not moving a muscle, her eyes burnt brightly; bidding her time to attack and kill the foreigner. He began to untie her, saying something she could not understand. She waited till the last knot was undone, and then went in for the kill. She lunged at him catching him off guard; he threw her off out of instinct. As though it was a favor from her gods, she found her sword and musket lying right where she landed. He had barely regained his composure when she lunged at him a second time, sword in hand. He managed to parry her off using his musket; but she stunned him with a kick to the shin, causing him to lose his footing and fall over. She managed to pin him to the ground; and just as she was about to run him through with her blade, he spoke in her native tongue, causing her to stop. He then pushed her off him and made sure there was enough distance between them, in case she tried to attack him again. She then started throwing questions at him, one after the other. He explained that her attackers were planning to sell her off to the foreigners; and that he had no interest in that kind of trading. He, also, explained how he had learnt her native tongue through trading. However she still could not trust him, she had been raised all her life to loathe the pale-skinned foreigners. As a show of good faith, he decided to surrender his weapons to her. Taking him as her prisoner, she continued her search. To her surprise, her prisoner was much more cooperative than she had expected. He had gone as far as nursing injuries she had sustained while wrestling a boar after she had refused his help and gone hunting for food. She had protested against this but eventually gave in after he kept on insisting. As time went on she began to trust him, and eventually returned his weapons to him. After two years, they had grown to rely on each other; he learnt her name, but insisted on referring to her as the ‘Boar Tamer’ since she also called him ‘Pale One’. Eventually, they were able to find seven out of the fifteen advisors. All of whom grew to consider the ‘Pale One’ as one of them. He helped to defend against various enemies they came across on their journey.
Between the third and fourth year, the now group of twelve, including the ‘Boar Tamer’ and the ‘Pale One’ had grown inseparable. The queen
mother and her former prisoner had grown attached to each other against all odds. They shared a bond like none seen before; a bond that transcended the colors of their skin. This, however, was a major concern of hers; and it was clear to her advisors that she would require their help in times to come. By the end of the fourth year, all the fifteen had been gathered with the help of the ‘Pale One’. It was time for queen mother to return to her kingdom. The night before their return home, the foreigner proposed an offer to her; an offer no man could ever have the courage to. For the first time in her life, she was left with nothing to say. Was this what her mother had warned her against; the feeling capable of completely clouding her judgment? Was this what love was? She wanted to say “Yes”. She wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of her life with him; but what of her duties as a queen mother?
In the morning the fifteen noticed the ‘Pale One’ was nowhere to be found and their Queen in a foul mood. She explained to them how he had to return to his people and how they both had duties to fulfill. Her advisors knew this was bound to happen eventually and set off for their return journey to the kingdom of the Queen Mother, swearing never to talk about what happened on their journey. After months, the Queen Mother arrived in her kingdom; her “Fifteen Advisors” in tow. Amidst warm welcomes, she was met with the news of her brother- the king’s declining health. She spent his last days with him, telling him of her journey and the ‘Pale One’. The King, upon hearing his sister talk about a man like never before, offered her the option to leave her life as a Queen Mother behind and follow her heart for once in her life. An offer she laughed off and pushed on with her duties as a Queen Mother as though nothing else mattered. The Queen Mother eventually got married and gave birth to a son; fulfilling her duty of leaving a successor to the throne- a request her brother the King had asked of her before passing on to the world of his ancestors.
Nineteen years passed, and with the help of her advisors, the kingdom was experiencing much stability and peace unlike ever before. The kingdom had gone without a king for quite some time; and after
consulting her advisors nominated her son as King. On his first official expedition as King, however, he was captured by the foreign invaders and exiled to an island; leagues from the kingdom. This broke the Queen Mother and left her distraught; no one but the “Fifteen Advisors” however, saw this side of her. With their help, she started to plan an attack on one of the forts the invaders had conquered earlier and were now using as a refuge. This attack was to cripple the invaders severely and kill their morale. The Queen Mother with the help of The Fifteen raided many outposts of the invaders during their preparation, causing the word to spread about the terror one queen mother and fifteen advisors were raining down on the foreigners. These actions led to neighboring kingdoms seeking an alliance with the Queen Mother in order to drive out the invaders. This led to unrest in the camps of the invaders. They responded in kind, conquering smaller kingdoms and gradually amassing territory and resources. This went on for a while, lives were lost on both sides, yet none was yielding.
One day, however, a patrol from The Queen’s kingdom returned with a prisoner; one of the foreigners’ lieutenant. The advisors after going to see the prisoner alone requested the Queen be summoned immediately. Upon her arrival, the Queen broke down in tears, not just any tears but tears of both sadness and joy. Her ‘Pale One’ had returned to her; but as a prisoner once again. In her chambers later in the evening, as they shared a kiss, it was obvious that time had not quenched the flame that had once been ignited.
The ‘Pale One’ pleaded with the ‘Boar Tamer’ and her “Fifteen Advisors” to gather their people and run; for his leader was not going to rest until he either captured her or took over the entire kingdom. The pleas of the ‘Pale One’ were not met, and he was released to return to his people; the ‘Boar Tamer’ resolved that the next she met the ‘Pale One’; they would be enemies on the battlefield. She vowed her people would be no foreigner’s slaves.
The week before the attack on the fort, the queen assembled her advisors telling them of her plan to surrender herself to the invaders; she would, however, take as much of the fort as she can before surrendering. The advisors knowing that there was no way to change her mind pledged to follow her to the doors of Hades no matter what she said.
On that morning, a kingdom woke up without its Queen Mother. On that day a group of sixteen caused an uprising like no other. On that same day, sixteen brave souls were lost. On that day, skin color did not stop him from loving her. On that day, a fire that once burned so bright was but a mere flicker. On that day, Yaa Asantewaa, the queen mother, the ‘Boar Tamer’ once again chose her duty as a leader over everything else.
A true leader is one who inspires; a true leader sacrifices all personal gain for the betterment of his or her followers. A true leader is one who does not stay down crying, but one who gets up and keeps on pushing. A true leader’s sacrifice is not always seen; but even if it takes centuries, untold stories of a true leader shall be told.
Semi-Finalist Content from the 2016 #360WritersChallenge