White Fire

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Frontier adventurers in southern Africa battle a secret occult brotherhood and native conspirators for possession of an ancient amulet that has the power to reveal great treasures or to destroy its bearer.

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Overview

Frontier adventurers in southern Africa battle a secret occult brotherhood and native conspirators for possession of an ancient amulet that has the power to reveal great treasures or to destroy its bearer.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
An 1828 archaeological expedition in Africa, a larger-than-life hero, a tribal uprising, a brotherhood bent on seizing an ancient amulet with the requisite curse--these are all elements of H. Rider Haggard novels and "Indiana Jones" films, right? Yes, but one would be advised to read further. There are parallel plot strands concerning a family making a perilous homesteading trek across the Cape Colony, and when these two strands converge, a romantic interest is kindled. To be sure, the hero is a bit too good to be true, and he engages in a footrace that defies belief--across hundreds of miles of country. Nevertheless, what lifts this book above adolescent melodrama is the skillful use of plot and characters who are (mostly) well developed. The author of over 20 works of fiction (the "Northwest Territory" series) and nonfiction (Rudyard Kipling in Vermont), Murray has written another winner.--Fred M. Gervat, Concordia Coll., Bronxville, NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Internet Book Watch
Author, journalist, and editor Stuart Murray has written a superbly crafted historical novel capturing the yesteryear feel of 1828 in southern Africa. Dirk Arendt is guiding an archaeological expedition toward a lost city near Zululand. One of the part is an agent for a ruthless secret brotherhood in search of an ancient amulet, thought to be in the hands of Shaka, founder and lord of the newly unified Zulu nation. Dirk's expedition arrives just as rebels are about to overthrow Shaka, and the rebels also desire to posses the Amulet of White Fire. Meanwhile to the southwest, the first Cape Colony Dutch pioneers have launched a journey northward into the wilderness in search of the Promised Land. These independent minded Boers include Dirk's own parents and Rachel Drente. These "voortrekkers" are marching straight into the turmoil and civil war between Zulu regiments and the conspirators who are seeking to overthrow Shaka and seize the amulet. White Fire is a stirring, very highly recommended, action-adventure oriented historical novel which is enhanced for the readers pleasure with a meticulous attention to accurate detail throughout.
—Internet Book Watch
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781884592256
  • Publisher: Images From The Past, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/30/2000
  • Pages: 325
  • Product dimensions: 5.84 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.12 (d)

Meet the Author

Stuart Murray has written twelve works of fiction and ten of nonfiction. Murray's nonfiction America's Song, the story of Yankee Doodle, was in Booklist's top ten books on music for 1999 and was awarded third place in the history category as ForeWord Magazine's Book of the Year for 1999. Rudyard Kipling in Vermont was selected a national finalist in Independent Publisher's biography category in 1997. Having served as fiction editor for a leading book producer, Murray has worked on more than twenty historical novels, and with a number of best-selling authors.

A journalist, editor, and writer for more than twenty-five years, Murray loves with his family in New York's Hudson River Valley.

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Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


THE AMULET


Swaziland, September 1822


Spears alone will not save us from Shaka—Mighty Shaka, Black Bull Elephant—merciless Shaka, whose regiments burn every village from the mountains to the great water, killing everyone, everyone ... even the children."

    The Swazi chief sat back in the woven reed chair of honor and closed his eyes. He was a large man and strong, though his hair was turning gray. A leopard skin draped over his massive chest slowly rose and fell with his breathing. As night settled over southeast Africa, firelight and torches illuminated the circle of warriors standing with oxhide shields and spears around the chief and the council of elders who were seated on the ground before him, silent, waiting, worried. Like their chief, the elders wore ceremonial plumes and leopard skin karosses for this solemn gathering. Like their chief, they were grim, knowing the village would be "eaten up" if the Zulus attacked, as they had attacked and destroyed hundreds of kraals in their bloodbath, the Mfecane, the "crushing" of all who resisted Shaka, their ruthless warrior king.

    The Swazi chief spoke again, eyes still closed.

    "We will fight when the Zulus come, but spears alone cannot defeat them." He opened his eyes and leaned toward the elders. "Not spears, but firesticks. We must have firesticks—the firesticks this white thing will sell us."

    André Toulouse, an aging French trader sitting by the feet of the chief, and the onlypaleface at the council fire, was the "white thing," umlungu in the Bantu tongue that was spoken by blacks throughout southern Africa and beyond. André had a hundred muskets back at his camp near the Indian Ocean, two days' march to the east. Those firesticks would bring plenty of Swazi ivory now, the best bargain he had made in ten years of fortune-hunting in southern Africa. In those years, André often visited this kraal, as villages surrounded by a wall of thornbush were called. He came to exchange trade goods and play concertina for the chief, who honored him with gifts of silver jewelry and the company of beautiful women.

    Here in Swaziland, a former French barber could live like a merchant prince; but if Shaka's regiments caught him selling muskets, they would kill him by slow torture.

    "Umlungu," the Swazi chief said, with the slightest gesture of a finger, "play your wind box while we consider our fate."

    André picked up his old concertina and began a popular tune from the dance halls of Cape Town: "Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms" was a favorite of the chief. As André swayed from side to side, shaking music from the concertina, he heard a talking drum close by beat out its message. He saw the chief, listening to the drum, slip something from behind the leopard skin kaross, something that gleamed like gold. After a moment, when the talking drum had fallen silent, the chief handed the gold to an elder, who held it and stared long at the chief before passing it to another, who did the same. Thus did the gold move around the circle of elders as André's music went on, each man in turn meeting the chief's gaze.

    This, André thought, was exceedingly strange, for no Bantu would dare be so insolent as to look his chief directly in the eyes. At last, the gold was passed to André, who was startled to find a beautiful amulet dangling before him. He had never seen such a treasure. A long-horned bull's head was enclosed in a circle, and set in the bull's forehead was a diamond, glowing as with a light of its own. Heart skipping, André gazed at the amulet and heard himself speaking.

    "What have I ... to do with this talisman, my Lord?"

    He could not stop looking at the diamond, for it burned with a white fire as the chief's voice came from a distance.

    "Umlungu, if I send warriors to the great water with you, will they bring back firesticks, or will you betray them to the men-stealers, who will enslave them?"

    There was no doubt about the answer, but before replying, André tried to hand back the amulet, except that he had a surging, unbearable desire to keep it, and at the same time the chief would not take it.

    "Speak, umlungu, while you hold the magic bull's head. Speak, and the white fire of the ancients shall mirror your desires."

    The diamond dazzled now with a cold, white glare, almost blinding, and André's heart pounded. He could not look away from that fire. A tingling entered the hand that held it. He wanted to drop it, and he wanted to keep it. The sensation passed along his arm, painful, then shot to the center of his heart, and he jerked, as if struck by a spear.

    "I am no slaver!" he cried out. Now he was staring at the Swazi chief, whose eyes held the same white light of the diamond, that glorious and terrifying white, burning fire. "I will send your young men back with firesticks!" He could not breathe. "I intend only ... to acquire more ivory than ... the firesticks ... are worth!"

    The chief yanked the amulet away.

    Released, André slumped down with a moan, his heart thundering as if it would burst. After a moment, he looked up to find the chief looking at him, the burning white light gone from the Swazi's eyes. Just then the talking drum sounded again, but stopped abruptly. The chief raised the amulet so it dangled, golden red, in the firelight. Now it was only an exquisite ornament, no longer hypnotizing, no longer radiating a light of its own.

    "He who beholds the golden bull's head must speak the truth," said the chief. "You, umlungu, can be trusted ... but some cannot."

    There was a sudden commotion, and two warriors entered the circle of shields, casting down what seemed to be a pile of dirty old clothing. Actually, it was a skinny, sour-smelling man, who cowered at the chiefs feet. André knew him as Dayega, a would-be witch doctor skilled with the talking drum.

    The chief asked: "To whom does your drum call, Dayega?"

    "My Lord?" the man squeaked, peering sidelong.

    "Your drum said, 'Come, now!' Whom do you call, Dayega?"

    With a fawning smile that showed filed, pointed teeth, Dayega crawled close to the chiefs leg and whimpered, "My Lord, the drum talks to boys herding thy cattle! Thy blessed royal herd has not been brought back into the kraal. It is dark, dark, and the lion will—"

    "Whom do you call?" The chief thrust the bull's head into Dayega's gnarled hands.

    Dayega cringed, trembling, his squinting eyes fixed on the golden amulet as he whined like a frightened dog.

    "Truth!" the chief demanded. "By the power of Nzambi Ya Mpungu, Ancient of the Ancients, lord of all amulets, speak!"

    Dayega collapsed, whimpering, one hand clawing the ground.

    "I command you, Dayega, by the white fire of the sacred crystal! Whom do you call?"

    "Shaka!" Dayega shrilled insanely, and the elders and warriors gave a start. "Yes! My lord Shaka!" Shriek echoing, eyes glazed, he gaped at the bull's-head amulet in his shaking hands. "Yes! The Zulu host comes to eat you up!"

    The Swazis were all on their feet.

    "Bullala!" A thousand voices suddenly bellowed from the darkness beyond the kraal wall. "Bullala! Kill! Kill!"

    "Shaka!" the Swazi chief shouted.

    André was too terrified to stand, legs too weak to hold him. He sat there, powerless, as the night rumbled with the Zulu battle cry: "uSuthu! uSuthu!" The kraal gate shuddered from their blows.

    A Swazi sprang at Dayega, spear drawn back.

    "Would you live?" Dayega screamed, cowering behind the amulet. "Then spare me!" The warrior hesitated. "Spare me, and I will beg Lord Shaka for your lives!" Dayega looked utterly mad now, eyes fixed on the amulet. "I will be his royal witch doctor—his bearer of the sacred bull's head!"

    "uSuthu!" the Zulus roared, hurling themselves again at the gate of the Swazi kraal, which splintered, yielding. Swazi men rallied with shields and weapons as women desperately gathered up the children. André shivered with fear. Someone brushed past him. Dayega, a shadow.

    "The bull's head?" the chief shouted. "Dayega! Where is Dayega?"

    "uSuthu!" The gate shattered and burst open, and howling Zulus plunged into the kraal, spears stabbing. "Bullala! Kill!"

    A wall of Zulu shields rammed against Swazi defenders, driving them back and down to die, writhing, screaming, kicking. André staggered as someone reeled heavily against him. It was the chief, who twisted away, yanking a spear from his body, a dying Zulu at his feet. The chief stumbled to his chair, toppling it over, and collapsing.

    He managed to speak. "The ... the bull's head, umlungu? Dayega!"

    "Gone!" André answered, crawling to him.

    "Ahh ..." The chief lay on his side, coughing blood. "It will destroy him! Destroy all who are unworthy to carry it—"

    André held the chiefs head, not daring to look up at the raging battle, expecting to be stabbed at any moment.

    "Bullala! Bullala! Bullala!"

    The chief gripped Andre's arm. "Umlungu!" The image of that amulet came to André "One day, one day ... you will see again the sacred Stone of White Fire!"

    "I?" André's heart thudded.

    "Umlungu! Hear me! The Stone of White Fire must never ... never return to those who would ... enslave us!"

    "Who? Who?"

    "The—" Slumping down, the chief murmured: "the Red ... Brotherhood!"

    "What? What is the Red Brotherhood?"

    The chief was dead.

    After a moment, André stood up, lightheaded, sick inside, holding the concertina to his chest, as if to protect himself from what was coming. Through sweat and fear, he forced himself to look around. He was surrounded by dead and dying. The fighting had swept past, the Zulu horde pushing through the village, killing and killing. Now at the far end of the kraal, their battle roar echoed as they finished the slaughter, finished Shaka's "crushing."

    André stood quivering, a helpless white thing so terrified he could not breathe. Then the concertina fell open with a wail, startling him, and he darted into darkness beside a hut. Wheezing for breath, he ran into the deeper shadows along the thornbush wall. He looked for a small gate that was there somewhere. Scampering back and forth, bewildered, the concertina wagging from his hand, he had to find that gate. That gate and a path into the jungle.

    "Bullala!"

    They were coming back.

    "uSuthu!"

    He had to find that gate.

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Table of Contents

1 The Amulet 1
2 Dirk Arendt 8
3 Rachel Drente 20
4 The Adventurers 33
5 The Trekkers 50
6 Shaka and the Oil of Youth 68
7 The Trek Departs 93
8 Lovell's Desire 105
9 To Port Natal 119
10 Gerrit's Hope 130
11 Feeding Sharks 140
12 Hard Advice 151
13 The Bearded One 156
14 The Hand of God 168
15 Dirk's Heart 179
16 Song of the Wild 192
17 The Amulet Bearer 197
18 Smoke 211
19 Spellbound 219
20 Dirk and Rachel 229
21 Coffee 236
22 Talking Drums 248
23 Reunion 258
24 The Wealth of the Earth 272
25 First Blood 282
26 Dayega's Desire 292
27 "Bayete" and amaSi 303
28 The SouthernCross 313
Epilogue 319
Glossary 322
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