Trigger warning: mild profanity and mentions of rape and violence
Most people wonder how I became Queen. How a cocoa coloured woman like me became the
ruler of a patriarchal, chauvinistic, post-colonial society? The truth?
I did it by killing.
One: A Made Woman
Gulf of Zula, Ethiopia
Several wars have raged between the Ethiopians and Arabs, leading to the seizure of the land by
the Arabs and enslavement of the native tribes.
I go to the gods every day.
I was raised that way after all. My whole life has always predetermined. Where I have been, has
never been a surprise and where I'm going is even less so.
Still though there are times I am content. I live a life of comfort and opulence. I can have
everything, well almost, everything I want.
I am a wife, a daughter in-law, friend, and one day, hopefully a mother. What more do I need?
I still go to the temple every day for hours.
Even with a life most would describe as close to perfect.
I fix my robes and run my hands over my bald head out of habit. Having performed my daily
ritual of praying for the mandatory hour as future queen, I make my way out of the shrine with
my servant girls following behind. My hand stops midair and once more I reprimand myself.
I snap out my trance and look at Tuku, the man who has been somewhat of a father figure to me
since I came here. Aside from that he is the chief advisor to the king.
"Tomorrow?" he repeats.
I nod and walk towards my servant girls who stand waiting for me at the entrance.
"Your bath has been prepared princess," one of my girls says.
I feel a sudden chill, a stark reminder that we are of the few awake in the royal palace during
these wee hours of the morning. A cold draft blows in from the sea and I wrap my arms tightly
against myself. Not to keep myself warm but to hide my perspiration soaked underarms.
We enter the palace walking past the courtroom before ascending the steps to my bedchamber.
The one I share with my husband the Arabian prince, Zeikht, the only child of the king, Abu
Omreen, and the deceased queen.
I must get ready. I have been summoned by the king and I have just under an hour to prepare
"You may enter daughter," the king says
Across the throne room he is a frightening and imposing figure, sitting on his throne, his aura
god like. There are those who suggest that he is the product of a djin that seduced his mother. I
can't say the rumors are unfounded. Cat like eyes size me up, his body language conveying that
he is alert and ready to pounce on any who dare stand in his way. A man who never bats an
eyelid at murder.
People respect and fear him, as my husband someday wishes to be feared.
I make my way to him, head kept low as I prostrate low before him. I feel his hand on my bald
head before he sighs and speaks to his son.
"This is how our women should always be, women of true values. Obedient women." I feel his
hand tighten before he lifts it up.
I rise up smiling before my eyes meet my husband who looks at me with a look that bears much
semblance to disgust.
"The perfect little wife you chose for me father is not producing the heir we desperately need."
I look down and swallow.
"Maybe if you paid more attention to your home affairs than your less 'tell-worthy' activities,
"I told you I never wanted her, I want.." Zeikht interrupts
I feel myself jump at that command.
"You know we marry women of their tribe. The Tigrayans were specifically bred for the
purpose. She will breed. I will make sure of that myself,"
I meet the king’s eyes which hold my gaze before wandering away.
"Leave," he orders.
I get up and walk out. My hands trembling and heart drumming wildly.
I go to the gods every day.
I go because I am afraid and my fear is my guide and constant reminder.
Because fear is the only god I know.
"Did you have to embarrass me so husband," I enquire that evening in our bed chamber.
"You know that was only for the benefit of that senile fool. He always takes away everything
that makes me happy and you my dear are no exception. Besides you two are much too closely
acquainted for comfort," he says grabbing my chin and giving me that wicked smile.
"He is my father in law of course we are acquainted," I laugh even as I notice how his
countenance has changed.
"Make no mistake Makheda. My father is vicious animal who grabs whatever he so desires. If
you think my father is your friend then you clearly do not know the man, the palace maids
certainly do, however," he smiles again
"Right now," he kisses me.
"My father is the last thing on my mind."
I let him pull me closer and feel my certainties dissolve away. When you've been with someone
for over a decade they always have a certain hold on you.
"Oh and wife?" He pauses just for emphasis.
"Never question me again."
He never stops smiling even as he puts the chisel to my dignity.
Two: In Between
"Are you sure?"
"Are you really sure Zara," I ask again.
My serving girl looks away before she turns back and looks me in the eye.
"It's the wine, always the wine."
I know how ambitious my husband is but this.... this borders on insanity.
"I see you don't believe me," she whispers.
"I'm just looking at things... objectively; I'll take what you have said into consideration. Let's
wait and see,"
"Wait and see my queen! Your husband plans to make us his servants and sex slaves forever
while you idly stand by, you have married a fool and he shall be the end of us all!"
She quickly puts a hand over her mouth.
"That will be all Zara."
"There is something else my queen, your husband..."
"That will be all Zara," I say with a look of finality.
I try to control the vigorous beating of my heart but even that cannot pacify the foundations of
my resolve that have been unsettled.
"There are talks of a coup. Someone in my own kingdom dare plans to overthrow me?"
"As if anyone would dare rise up against you father, we all remember what happened twenty
years ago. Don't we wife," my husband smiles in my direction.
I remember all too well. More than he could ever comprehend. He was after all still a menacing
infant tugging at his mother's breast, whereas I...
And I know that even to this day young women and men are still paying for that one revolt.
Young girls with their bodies, young men their dignity. They are paying every day.
"We made a good example of those charcoal skinned natives. The Mursi, Amhara, Tigrayans,
Akusum. All those traitorous beasts. One of my own chiefs had forgotten his place. I had given
him everything and he dared accuse me of ruling my land unfairly. What fairness do these people
"You burnt their village to the ground, raped their women and captured their girls, shaved their
heads and made them slaves. Commendable father," he laughs.
I can feel Zara, shifting from foot to foot. The other girls waiting on our breakfast all stand with
their heads down pretending to be absent from the room, trying make themselves disappear.
I clear my throat, "My king, my husband, should we really discuss such topics while our help is here? The very people who attend to us day and night are from the tribe you talk about."
"No one is discussing anything with you, now look at me wife"
I keep looking down until I feel something cold hit my face. I realise that my husband has
thrown his drink at me.
"Look at me! My father took care of those traitorous baboons because they did not know their
place, people must always know their place lest they get too comfortable and forget what they
really are," he sneers.
"Yes my prince"
"Have more wine father," he smiles turning to his father.
I watch the king sip thirstily from the cup before my eyes travel to my husband's face. I try to
ignore his expression. I try to.
There are times when I question my whole life and the entirety of my choices. Times I wonder if
maybe I have been misguided and if I have used obsolete bitterness to impede my perception of
the future. But looking at my husband now I'm glad I never had his children.
Three: The Unmaking of a Woman
My father in law is dying. Abu Omreen our fearsome king lies on his deathbed in the last
dredges of sickness. A man who once seemed immortal, that orchestrated nightmares in the
minds of children and adults alike lays reduced to a mere husk. A pathetic shadow.
This is the greatest tragedy of our lives, or at least for the semblance of peace this land has
maintained under his unrelenting iron fist. Cruel and he may have been, he was no fool.
He leaves behind his son as heir to the throne.......the worst man I know.
The biggest fool in existence.
"Maybe if you had done your job and given me an heir I wouldn't have been forced to sleep with
your little hand maid,"
Zara is still in tears. After a morning spent in the temple, I had come back to find my maid and
husband grunting and groaning.
"My lady, I am...."
I lift a hand to silence her.
I watch her as she gathers her clothes, my husband's eyes unashamedly on her naked body until
"How long have you been forcing yourself on her?" I ask.
My husband laughs.
"Force her? Every one of those ill-bred mongrels wants to sleep with the Future king, you my
dear should know better than anyone."
He's still confident even when all he's full of is shit.
Brown eyes, olive coated skin and a very charming face on a viper.
"I can see by the way you're looking at me that you're dying to get some of what I gave your
Brown eyes, olive coated skin and a very charming face on a stupid man.
"Yes?" I smile
I let him pull me close. He smells of forced sex, silent screams and broken dreams. He is a
massacre in human form. Running my hands through his hair I ask.
"Does your father know you're planning to kill him my irresistible prince?"
"That you've been lacing his wine with poison?"
His hands tighten around my wrist.
"Say that again?" he asks smiling
"Does your father know you've been poisoning him. Does that turn you on more?"
His mood changes so quickly I don't even see it coming. The smile leaves his face, leaving
behind a deranged idiot in its aftermath. Zeikht grabs my hand painfully and squeezes it.
"You will tell no one," he spits his eyes full of madness and malice.
"You will tell no one or I will kill you myself."
His other hand fastens around my throat before he starts to squeeze hard while muttering 'my
throne'; under his breath.
It takes me a moment to realise that he actually means to kill me. One of my hands goes to his
face and the other his shoulder before I push him away with force. He stumbles away before
looking at me in shock and hatred.
"You ugly piece of filth, we should have killed you along with your pathetic father. Ugly
disgusting filth. That crown on your head doesn't change the pig that you are. Wait until the
throne is mine, I'll get rid of you,"
He starts laughing and I can't help notice the white saliva gathering in the corners of his mouth
making him resemble a rabid dog.
"It’s a good thing you never carried my heir. I wouldn't even be certain they're mine since you've
been busy screwing my father all these years"
He lands on the floor after I have backhanded him.
"I'm going to kill you. If I were you I'd leave quietly," he calmly says a hand on his cheek.
I open the door and turn back to take one last look at him.
"I never had your children because I ended their lives before they entered this world. I spared
them the indecency of having a delusional idiot like you for a father." I spit on the floor as I finish
I walk out to the sound of a glass crashing against the door.
Two weeks later the king is dead and I am exiled. As part of our tradition his son is a suitable
candidate to be his successor but anyone who wants to challenge him can come up and fight him.
There is no one or so it seems.
....two weeks later.
"You seem to be comfortable Princess or should I say my queen,"
"I have everything I need Tuku,"
I am both pleased and not so pleased to see him.
"And what about what the people you come from need? Not so long ago you were just a
concubine but I helped you gain your dignity. Take note princess that I did not do this just to
appease you, though your treatment did improve much, but I did it for the cause. You might have
forgotten those fateful words your father uttered in his dying breaths but I haven't, I shall take
my leave. There is nothing more for me to say."
He gives me a final look over, disappointment deeply set in his countenance.
"Has everything I taught you all been for nothing," he asks struggling to find his words.
"Makeda," he finishes before shaking his head and leaving.
This is the first time I have heard my birth name since we were captured from our tribe.
Three: A Woman Made
They say a woman is made in the fire and with fire. That life is the fire and her resilience the fire
within her. My life has been a furnace and my resolve has been tested every step of the way. The
good thing about being a woman is that I am not blinded by a man's pride and for that reason I
have been able to endure maintaining a semblance of stupidity and passivity, all while knowing
my true ambitions.
I won't lie though; many times I have wavered.
"What's it to you? What place does a woman have in political affairs? This is no woman's place."
Today is the day the prince takes the throne. The throne he has desperately coveted for years.
Any man willing to commit patricide must be desperate after all.
"No. It is not a woman's place. But it is mine."
"I have come to challenge you and you won't deny me that right," I say.
"And why would a kings wife need such rights, I have given you everything."
"You exiled me."
"To a palace in the east with as many servants as you need. Surely this isn't the place for an
embittered wife to bring her jealousy issues."
The men behind him laugh except for Tuku.
"I am not leaving without my fight."
"You have no one to back you, any challenger needs their panel. Does anyone stand with this
No one moves for a long time and my husband looks back at me.
Everyone gasps as Tuku makes his way from behind my husband over to my side, even Zeikht is
"As do I," Zara says
Soon one by one my supporters from different tribes of the native people start to come to my
"Why are you doing this?"
"20 years ago, I was just an innocent child. My father was a chief of the king and leader of the
Tigrayan tribe. He was faithful to the king, gave him a portion of our land, paid his unreasonable
taxes without complaint, however he was not pleased with how the king oppressed the Ethiopian
people. How he used them as slaves. You saw our black skin as something disgusting. You saw
our Cushitic language as heinous. You took our names. We the Tigrayan people were a special
caste that was treated with dignity by your father but still my father cared for more than himself,
he cared for the other tribes whose members were treated like animals. When he dared to convey
his thoughts to the king he was labelled a traitor. Our village was raided, our mothers raped and
killed while we watched, our fathers murdered and us children taken as slaves. Your father kept
me for you however but you already know that. In the last dredges of death my father told me to
avenge him, to avenge our people, I was 10 but I never forgot. Every day since then I have gone
to the temple to practise the art of fighting with Tuku so that someday I could kill you. I won't
lie, for a while I had wavered, intoxicated by the life you offered but I'm fully awake now. And
today I stand before with my father's own spear to challenge you. Take up your spear Prince
Zeikht and fight me."
My name is Makeda. I am a queen, a friend, a black skinned African woman, not a wife but still
a woman. A strong woman.
And most recently I have become a mother.
It has been 5 years since I took the throne from Prince Zeikht.
I look up and smile at the owner of that little voice, our eyes meeting in the mirror. My brown
meeting his green, reminding me of a little place called Judah in a beautiful sleepy country called
Israel. And the words uttered by a man, the owner of those green eyes my son has, who I can
only describe as unforgettable.
"You are beautiful oh so beautiful, poems and books will I compose about your beauty!"
Solomon. What a man.
I sigh in contentment and look at my 4 year old son, Menilek, the future of our people. The first
ruler of what they shall call the Solomonic dynasty.
"Who is my father?" He asks without pause.
I smile a broad smile and laugh.
"A wise man, a very wise man."
I am the queen of Sheba.
Valerie Tendai Chatindo is a biochemistry graduate from the University of Zimbabwe, entrepreneur, writer and poet. Her work has appeared in The Kalahari Review, Enthuse Magazine, Bhizimusi, PinkDisco Magazine, Creepy Pod, Agbowo and Literary Yard. She has work that has been published in an anthology entitled, 'Nehanda Reimagined, curated by Povo. Her short story 'Sheba', was shortlisted for the African Cradle, 'African Heroines', literary prize and she is working on her first book of poems with them as part of their writing clinic. She currently is a resident artist with, Page Poetry Alive. The twenty seven year old resides in Harare, Zimbabwe with her cat, Muffins. You can read more of her work on her personal blog, valeriechatindo.wordpress.com