Once upon a time, in the faraway land of Alsaca, a young man named Usub wanted to become rich and powerful. But he knew that to do so, he would need help. So he went to talk to his two best friends, Kardon and Kithe. Kardon and Kithe, who also wanted to become rich and powerful, agreed to help Usub. They suggested that Usub try to become the Chief of Alsaca. Usub liked the idea.
“But how do I become Chief?” Usub wondered.
“Easy!” Kardon exclaimed. “We ask the rich people of Alsaca to lend you money to become powerful!”
“But why will they lend me money? They don’t know me!” Usub said unhappily.
“Don’t worry Usub,” Kithe chipped in. “You can pay them back once you’re in power.”
“Will I have all the money I need?” Usub asked.
“You will have that and much more,” Kardon replied. “But you will not only pay them back in money. You will also give them the presents they ask for: for example, if they ask you for a piece of land, you give it to them. They help you, and so you help them.”
“Ah!” Usub began to understand. “I like the idea.” He smiled happily. But then he thought of something else and became downcast again. “But I still don’t understand how I will have all the money you say I will have.”
“WE WILL have, my dear Usub.” Kithe smiled. “We will also become rich with you. We have a plan. As soon as we are in power, we will start stealing the treasures of Alsaca and sell them. We will hide the money in another country, so that the people of Alsaca will not know what we are doing.”
“Hmmmm…that sounds like a brilliant idea, Kithe!” Usub exclaimed. “I like it.”
“We will also increase the taxes of the poor people, and take some of it ourselves.” Kardon chipped in.
“But we will not tax the rich people that will help us become powerful, right?” Usub asked, worried.
“Of course not!” Kardon replied disdainfully. “We will only tax the poorer people who cannot complain.”
Usub was getting excited. “Let’s do this!” He said, clapping his hands in glee.
Kardon and Kithe smiled at him and then smiled at each other. Their plan had worked. They were going to become rich.
Usub, Kardon and Kithe began to make friends with rich people, who promised to help them. In turn, the trio promised the rich people whatever they wanted: land, buildings, and many other presents. So the rich people starting giving Usub money so that he could buy nice clothes and go on television to tell the people of Alsaca to vote him. The people saw Usub, a nicely dressed young man, and liked him. They were tired of having the same Chief, who had been in power for many years. They wanted someone new.
And so when the time came, they voted for Usub, and Usub became Chief. He made Kardon and Kithe sub-Chiefs. Immediately, they started taxing the poor people, telling them that Alsaca needed money to build new roads. The people accepted, because they trusted Usub.
So that they do not become unhappy, Usub also ordered that cakes and sweets be given to everyone. And the people were pleased.
Usub and his friends started selling Alsaca’s beautiful treasures to other countries. They did not tell anyone what they were doing, because they knew the people of Alsaca would be angry about this. So they did this during the night, when no one could see them.
One night, however, a young boy named Tame was out looking for their family’s cat. The cat had gone out earlier in the day and had not returned, so Tame’s mother had asked him to go and look for him. Tame searched high and low but could not find Cat. Finally, he came to a large long fence. Tame could not see above it and so he climbed the fence to peer over. In the light coming from a lamp, Tame could see Usub, Kithe and Kardon together with two other men. Tame leant closer to hear what they were saying.
“This is a very expensive painting.” Kardon was telling one of the men whom Tame did not know.
“I will not give you more than what we agreed upon,” the man replied.
Kardon looked at Usub, who nodded.
“All right then. Sold.” Kardon said. And the man handed him a bag.
Kardon opened it and looked inside, then handed it to Kithe.
Meanwhile, Tame was trying to see what painting they were talking about. Finally, the man turned it towards where Tame was and Tame gasped. It was the painting of his town’s church. The parish priest loved the painting and was always talking about it with pride. Tame wondered why Usub and his friends were selling the painting. He wanted to say something, but was afraid of the five men. Instead, he climbed down the fence and ran.
Arriving home, he opened the door and banged it shut behind him, sliding down onto the carpet to catch his breath. His mother, Phande, hearing the noise, came out to see what happened.
“Tame!” she cried. “Are you all right? Where’s Cat?”
It was at that moment that Tame realised he had forgotten all about Cat. Oh no. “I’m so sorry mother. I could not find him.”
“Never mind, dear. He’ll come back tomorrow, I’m sure. Come and have a glass of milk before you go to bed.”
But Tame did not move.
Phande looked at him again and realised that Tame was not looking well.
She sat down beside him and put her arms around him. “What’s wrong, Tame?”
“I saw something, mother.”
“What did you see, dear?”
Tame hesitated. But then went on “While I was looking for Cat, I came to a fence and climbed it to peer over. I saw the Chief and his two men…”
“Kardon and Kithe?” Phande asked.
“Yes! And they were with two other men. Mum, they were selling the painting of our church, the nice one Fr Oliver is always talking about.”
Phande looked shocked. But then she nodded. She had long suspected that Usub and his two friends were up to no good. She had already heard stories of paintings and other treasures disappearing from other towns and had known that something was wrong. The thieves had never been caught. But she had never imagined that Usub and his two friends were the ones actually stealing them, and selling them to other countries.
“Don’t worry, Tame. All will be well. Come and have a glass of milk and a muffin before you go to bed.”
Tame brightened up. He felt relieved that he had told his mother and she had believed him.
As soon as Tame went to bed, Phande began writing the story her son had told her, without mentioning him. The next day, she went to the stationery nearby to print several copies of her story, and then went around the town posting them in everyone’s letterboxes.
Soon everyone had read the story of Usub’s trio stealing and selling Alsaca’s treasures. Many people became angry at this. Their treasures being sold! And without them knowing! People gathered in the streets and started marching towards the Chief’s palace, calling for Usub to come out and explain himself.
But Usub stayed inside. He was afraid. He tried to call Kardon and Kithe, but they too were at home, scared, and did not pick up the phone. They were afraid people might hear them.
Meanwhile, other people who read Phande’s story did not believe it. How could their Chief be selling their treasures? Surely it was other thieves who were doing this! Phande is a liar, they thought. So they too gathered in the streets and started marching towards Phande’s home, calling for her to leave Alsaca.
Tame saw them coming and was afraid. “What’s happening, mother?”
“Don’t worry dear, I called the policemen to come and keep us safe.”
But the policemen didn’t come. Usub had already asked them to come and keep HIM safe, and all the police of Alsaca were guarding Usub’s palace.
When the people grew tired and went home, still angry, Usub called Kardon and Kithe again. They came to Usub’s palace to decide what to do.
“Phande has to leave Alsaca.” Kithe said.
“How?” Usub wondered.
“I have an idea.” Kithe said.
In the middle of the night, two men came to Phande’s house. They knocked on her door. When she opened it, she was scared.
“Who are you? What do you want?”
“You have to come with us,” one of the men said. “If you don’t, we will take your son too.”
“No.” Phande said. “You will not touch my son. I will come.”
So she went with the two men. When they arrived to the sea, Phande saw a boat. She looked at the men again, now even more scared.
“You will leave Alsaca and never come back. Remember what will happen if you do not do as we tell you.”
Phande started crying. She did not want to leave her beloved country or her son, Tame. But she had no choice. So she left, heartbroken.
But when they heard that Phande had been forced to leave Alsaca, the people who had believed her story became even angrier. They marched everyday to Usub’s palace, calling for him to go away or for the police to take him to prison. But the police were afraid of Usub and his men, and did nothing. And Usub remained Chief. Kardon and Kithe remained sub-chiefs, and they continued selling Alsaca’s treasures. The other people who had not believed Phande’s story continued eating the cakes and sweets Usub gave them, and were happy.
One day, Phande’s friends were standing in front of the Chief’s palace, not knowing what to do to get Usub to stand down. Suddenly, a man called Manu, who had been a big friend of Phande’s, spoke up. “Why don’t we go to the Elders?”
The protesters looked at him, unsure. It was very difficult to reach the Elders. They lived far away and no one disturbed them unless it was really important.
“Do you think they will let us speak to them?” someone from the crowd said.
“Why not? This is a very important situation. Usub and his friends are stealing from Alsaca, and we need to get Phande back to her country and her son. We have tried everything we can but nothing works.”
“True,” someone else said. “We have nothing to lose. Let’s try.”
So a small group, led by Manu, went to the Elders. It was a long journey. When they arrived, they were very tired and hungry. They knocked on the Elders’ door. They waited for a very, very long time, before someone came to open the door.
“Come in,” one of the Elders spoke from within.
Manu and his friends went in, and waited. There were ten Elders sitting around a table, all looking at them.
“What brings you so far from your towns?”
“Oh Old One” Manu said, respectfully. “There is great trouble in Alsaca.”
“What trouble?” another Elder asked.
So Manu and his friends told the Elders everything that had happened since Usub and his friends came to power. The Elders were deeply troubled at what they heard. They told Manu and his friends to eat and rest, and that they will discuss this among themselves.
The following morning, when Manu and his friends came down, they found two Elders waiting for them.
“We will come with you to help you get rid of Usub. The situation needs to end now.”
So the two Elders went with Manu and his group. When they arrived in the city, the Elders went to Usub’s palace, and called for him to come out. Usub was scared, but he dared not disobey the Elders. They were much more powerful than him. So he went out.
“What is this we hear, that you are selling Alsaca’s treasures? And taxing the poor people who cannot pay? And sending a woman away for speaking the truth?”
Usub bowed his head. He dared not lie to the Elders.
“I did it all for Alsaca, Oh Old Ones.”
The Elders were very angry. “You are destroying Alsaca! You will be punished. The police will take you away and you will think about what you have done and why it is wrong.”
The Elders called the police, who came and took Usub away. Then the Elders and the police went for Kardon and Kithe and took them away as well.
Manu and his friends were overjoyed. Many people came out to celebrate in the streets, including those who had been afraid to come out to protest so as not to anger Usub.
Phande came back to Alsaca and was reunited with Tame, who had spent a long time without his mother. Both were very happy. Phande continued writing stories about any wrongdoing she saw or heard of in Alsaca.
Not everyone was happy. Some people, who wanted the cakes and the presents Usub used to give them, were unhappy. However, many more people started believing Phande’s story, especially when the Elders told them it was true.
Another election was held, and another Chief was chosen. Her name was Jacinda. Jacinda brought great good to Alsaca. She was kind and good and the people loved her.