A ground-breaking anthology celebrating Marvel’s beloved Black Panther and his home of Wakanda, penned by an all-star cast of authors such as Sheree Renée Thomas and Nikki Giovanni.
T’Challa faces the gods of his parents. Vampires stalk Shuri and a Dora Milaje in voodoo-laced New Orleans. Erik Killmonger grapples with racism, Russian spies, and his own origins. Eighteen brand-new tales of Wakanda, its people, and its legacy.
The first mainstream superhero of African descent, the Black Panther has attracted readers of all races and colors who see in the King of Wakanda reflections of themselves. Storytellers from across the African Diaspora—some already literary legends, others who are rising stars—have created for this collection original works inspired by the world of the Panther and its inhabitants. With guest stars including Storm, Monica Rambeau, Namor, and Jericho Drumm, these are stories of yesterday and today, of science and magic, of faith and love.
These are the tales of a king and his country. These are the legends whispered in the jungle, myths of the unconquered men and women and the land they love.
These are the Tales of Wakanda.
Featuring stories by Linda D. Addison, Maurice Broaddus, Christopher Chambers, Milton J. Davis, Tananarive Due, Nikki Giovanni, Harlan James, Danian Jerry, Kyoko M., L.L. McKinney, Temi Oh, Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Glenn Parris, Alex Simmons, Sheree Renée Thomas, Cadwell Turnbull and Troy L. Wiggins.
Release date: March 9, 2021
Publisher: Titan Books
Print pages: 512
* BingeBooks earns revenue from qualifying purchases as an Amazon Associate as well as from other retail partners.
BLACK PANTHER: TALES OF WAKANDA
WATCHING WAKANDAN people through a series of cameras and satellites is not exactly spying if they’re family.
Sort of. Well, maybe the whole idea’s fried. The thing about being a Dora Milaje—the royal protectorate gathered from various tribes for the Wakandan king and, well, his personal bodyguards (not that he needs either)—is that I have access to all sorts of technology and surveillance. Not that studying a fisherman ranks high on anyone else’s priority list.
Just outside of the Crystal Forest, home of the Jabari cult, an old man gathers his catch. Still strong and able, though he’s seen his share of days, he hops out of his boat onto the white sands of the beach and heads to his village. Passing farmers tending to their fields, that’s life in my home village.
One I couldn’t enjoy, because of the politics of who I am. Queen of the Jabari cult. Since T’Challa keeps the peace between the tribes of Wakanda with the chosen Dora Milaje, I’m a walking international incident waiting to happen. The spying thing probably doesn’t help, but this is the village where the family I never knew comes from.
Until recently, as far as I knew, I was born Chante Giovannie Brown. I gave myself the name Queen Divine Justice. Come to find out that my true Wakandan parents named me Ce’Athauna Asira Davin, meaning “the Peace of God.” But ever since I was sent away, I’ve known anything except peace. Or, for that matter, divine justice.
I pan the camera back toward the unspoiled Nyanza Bay and stare out at the water for a while. That’s when I see it.
A fish bobs to the surface of the water. Then another. And another. Soon, a hundred or so float in the bay, their lifeless eyes staring up at the sun. Not sure if this is a thing, I hesitate, uncertain of the protocol in this situation. This is one of those moments when I try to talk to my mom and dad. Anywhere else, I’d probably be labeled crazy, since they were killed when I was a baby and I don’t even remember them. I only have a vague impression of who they were. But here in Wakanda, they’re all about talking to their ancestors. Heck, I work for a guy who talks to spirit cats that date back to the dawn of time, so I’m in good company.
My gut tells me this is a spy vs spy situation, so there is only one person to contact.
“You summoned me, my Lady?” I recognize the voice before I turn around. Hunter. Also known as the White Wolf, chieftain of the Hatut Zeraze, literally “the Dogs of War.” Figuratively, he’s the head of Wakanda’s secret intelligence forces.
And the Black Panther’s half-brother. The king trusts him as much as Thor trusts Loki.
“I ain’t down with that ‘my Lady’ ish.” I fix my eyes on him the way I would any dude who cat-called me while I was trying to take a stroll minding my own business. That hard “don’t test me” stare flashes to bear like breathing at this point.
“Just showing the respect due a queen.” Hunter leans against the doorframe without a worry about getting the slightest bit of dirt on his perfectly white, perfectly tailored business suit. But everything about him is a lie. His suit is actually his White Wolf uniform made to appear as a suit, with the same advanced technology that allows him to sneak in here and pose dramatically.
That’s the thing about Hunter: he’s like the uncle that is always up to something.
“Yes, you had, though you may not have realized it. Perhaps now would be a good time to caution you that when you use our defense monitors to spy on a restricted area, someone’s going to notice.”
“Okay, I kinda thought my Dora Milaje status gave me clearance. Anyway, I wanted your opinion on something.” I point to the fish clustered on the water. “What do you make of this?”
“A fish kill.” His wry grin betrays amusement at his own smug response.
“That much I figured out on my own.”
“What do you think it means?” Hunter’s eyes constantly size me up.
I hate how everyone around here treats every opportunity like it’s a teaching moment. “Someone’s dumping something they shouldn’t.”
“What do you plan to do about it?”
“I don’t know. It needs to be investigated. Maybe take it to the king.”
“This is nothing to bother the king about. He already mopes about in his malaise.”
The ever-present shadow of the king looms long, with few ever escaping it. No one ever wants to trouble him.
“Then would you check it out? Investigate and learn more? Those are my… I don’t know what those people are to me, but I’m protective of them.”
“Very well.” Hunter steps to the console and produces a series of holographic images. “In the meantime, I’m to brief you on the gala tonight.”
“Where’s…” I glanced about for my Dora Milajeinstructor.
“This is a state function and a security matter. You’ll be escorting the king as he meets with the Chinese business delegates as part of the Build and Railway Forum soiree.”
“A… BARF party?” I yell louder than I intended. I can’t hide the snicker in my voice.
“Don’t get mad at me for calling it what it is. They spend all that money, and no one had an extra $50 to chip in for better branding?”
“I assure you, this is a matter of grave import to the Chinese. Their larger agenda involves building a railroad from Azania that will eventually extend to Narobia and Niganda, replacing the line built during British colonial rule. The better to transport wealth out of the countries more efficiently.”
“Cynical much?” My eyebrows arch, but I also have a resting skeptical face.
“Merely a student of history. Colonizers are like addicts.”
“I know my share of addicts. They don’t see people. They only see resources to be consumed. Once they have, you cease to exist and they move on.” Rotating back to the monitors, I see the fish drift to the shore to rot in the sun. “They dump whatever they want, destroying our rivers. Our quality of life.
“As long as we continue to be the object of their irresponsibility, injustice, and inhumanity, our entire continent and way of life is in jeopardy.”
“Welcome to the new colonialism: plundering nations with a checkbook.” I talk with my full chest now.
Hunter tilts his head like he’s surprised by my answer. “And the Black Panther sits idly by while it happens.”
“You could at least try to hide your resentment of the king.”
“It’s not resentment. I simply hate the lies and hypocrisy of Wakanda. I have one motive: to defend and serve the kingdom of Wakanda. And its king. I do the dirty jobs so that my brother and his father before him could keep their hands clean. And blameless.”
“You’re a white dude, trying to speak on our behalf.”
“I am the son of its king.” When he was a baby, the plane carrying him and his family crashed in an outlying area of Wakanda. T’Chaka, T’Challa’s father, adopted him. Hunter’s been sort of overcompensated on the loyalty thing ever since. His Hatut Zeraze are reputed to be the most loyal of the many secret services operating on behalf of Wakanda. Almost fanatically so. He never let little things like torture, assassination, and brutality slow his roll any. Which was why T’Challa eventually dismissed him. Hunter’s been slowly working his way back into his brother’s good graces, from freelancer back to player in the game.
“For a decade, I was the lone son of King T’Chaka and Queen N’Yami. Until T’Challa, the king’s biological son, arrived. N’Yami died in childbirth. T’Challa’s birth…”
“…and you lost your parents all over again.”
Hunter stared at her. “You have no idea what it’s like to be colonized within your own family.”
“We have a lot in common…” My voice trails off as I catch myself with the observation. I hate it when bits of accidental truth slip out. A moment passes between us, the communion of loss in the silence.
Being adopted into royalty doesn’t make up for being dealt a rough hand. I’m just as lost and lonely surrounded by all the trappings of wealth and power. Always struggling to fit in, to find my footing, to be accepted.
“You need to get ready for the gala.” Hunter shifts noisily. “You don’t want to be late for the gathering.”
“Aren’t you coming with me?”
“No. My brother, the king, does not require me there.”
I understand Hunter giving this shindig a hard pass. People only knew of Hunter in relation to T’Challa or his father. It’s difficult to find your place in a family with a celebrity in it. Everyone approaches you interested only in your famous relative. It may take half a dozen questions before they even notice you exist as your own person. It’s got to be doubly tough when you are the older brother, and the younger is king. The favored one. The wanted one.
Without another word, Hunter activates his cloaking technology and fades into the background like an annoying ghost, remaining unseen.
* * *
LIFE IN Wakanda always feels like part pageant. Life as celebration, using any event as an excuse to showcase our culture. The drummers announce the entrance of the Dora Milaje, falling into rhythm so we can step in a choreographed dance, like Alpha Kappa Alphas on steroids. Though there’s something extra to it, like I’m tapping into the source of the very spirit of our dance. Only once our performance has ended do I settle down to business.
For once, it’s fitting that the Dora Milaje have me outfitted in my standard dress like a dinner party might break out at any moment. People look through me as I walk, at best cognizant of my position. A businessman approaches me with an appraising gleam in his eye. I wave him off with a snarl and my hand reaching for a weapon. After grabbing a plateful of those bacon-wrapped shrimp things, I withdraw into my thoughts.
China is the big player in Africa, while the U.S. still thinks of it as just one big country, too far away and too poor to care about. China sends delegates and corporate representatives to the capital of every nation in Africa every year to be hosted at a (I refuse to call it by that ridiculous name) party. All to secure various infrastructure projects. Over ten thousand Chinese firms are doing business in Africa.
None in Wakanda.
That’s why the surrounding nations from Azania to Niganda quietly resented T’Challa. Not that the king expected to be celebrated for ending Wakandan isolation, but as far as the surrounding countries were concerned, it was like growing up hungry only to find out your next-door neighbor had been gorging on burgers the entire time.
Then, without fanfare, the king arrives. I know he’s here the way you knew any cat was in the room. The way my bladder suddenly felt full as if I might be potential prey. An indefinable sense of presence. Watching you. Tracking you. Hunting you.
His black cutaway coat—with Wakandan patterns embroidered at each cuff and about his collar—has a regal drape. King T’Challa glides through the room like a shark unhampered by water. No, that’s not quite right. He’s free, in the truest sense of the word. No one here holds any leverage over him. No one can control him. No one binds him. Not by chains. Not by favor. Not by money. Yet there’s still a heaviness to him, like he carries the responsibility to his entire nation. When you’re king, the weight of the world rests on your shoulders—and he has big-ass shoulders.
“Why am I here?” Without heat, genuinely curious, I assume my position at his side.
“To watch. To learn.” T’Challa only speaks to me in Hausa, his default language of and that of the Dora Milaje. Any given citizen of Wakanda speaks three or four languages. At least.
I was born in Chicago. I still don’t know much Hausa. Even less Wakandan. “I need you to speak American. Preferably in the dialect of hood.”
The corner of his mouth twitches, practically a beaming smile for him. “Consider this a practicum in your study of international affairs. Part of your training as Dora Milaje, if you are to one day lead.”
Hunter’s warning flits through my head, but I need to bother a brother.
“King T’Challa, a matter has come to my attention. There’s been a fish kill at Nyanza, on the outskirts of the Crystal Forest. I… asked the White Wolf to check it out.” I close my eyes, waiting for the yelling about overstepping my bounds to start. At least, that’s what my life in Chicago taught me to expect. When it doesn’t come, I open them again.
“My brother is not to be trusted,” T’Challa intones, low and serious.
“What’s the deal with you two? If he can’t be trusted, why put him in charge of anything more important than toast?”
“He’s still family. He’s still loyal to Wakanda.”
His childhood—already constrained by being the heir to an ancient and unbroken dynasty—ended when he was about my age, when his father was killed in front of him. His life, all duty and sacrifice, measured in discipline, drive, and focus. I’m doing good to get my Corn Flakes in the morning. It might be the king thing or the hero thing or the inner teenage boy whose dad was taken away from him thing, but he’s closed himself off. Rarely letting anyone in, the man’s in need of a hobby.
“Good evening, King T’Challa.” Jiang, the chief executive officer of one of Asia’s largest corporations, sidles up to us. Though the king towers over a foot taller than him, the CEO of the East Asia Corp. carries himself with the confidence and unassuming power of someone used to being underestimated. “It is still ‘King’, correct?”
This jumped-up real estate mogul trying to be slick with his shade. T’Challa recently thwarted a challenge from Erik Killmonger. As part of his strategy, King T’Challa dissolved Wakanda’s political government and crashed its economy. One of his typically convoluted plans that pitted everyone against each other so that folks couldn’t see what he was up to. U.S. State Department liaison Everett Ross once told me, “If you learn nothing else about my client, learn this: whatever you think he’s doing, he’s doing something else.”
But like all actions, it had its share of consequences. He’s still technically king, but no longer chieftain. The way I understand it, the rule of law became tribal over political. One of the reasons I was brought here from my safehouse in Chicago was to quell some of the tribal council tensions.
“I am Wakanda’s king.” Though he spoke without a hint of annoyance, T’Challa’s voice always had the undercurrent of “Tread lightly or I’ll take grandmomma’s switch to your behind.”
“We hope to be Wakanda’s friend. The East Asia Corp. of course hopes only to help Africa stand by themselves.” Jiang’s face lit up, all warmth and charm. “Our government, and our business concerns, have always backed African liberation movements, since Wakanda won’t.”
“A velvet glove does not make the yoke of colonialism any less brutal. If you’ve come to exploit us, it only makes you someone new to resist.” T’Challa meets his eyes. It’s a dark and terrible thing to stare into the eyes of a panther up close.
“That is the fear: that you believe that it’s China’s turn to exploit us. A new colonizer looking to grow its power on our wealth.”
Jiang presses his hand to his chest in mock injury. “Our corporation pursues a different path. After all, after the death of our founding father, our more progressive leaders chose to invest in business, science, and technology. Now we simply do business. We’re offering trade and aid. For example, we’re building a $1.7 billion-dollar hydropower dam in Niganda.”
Jiang leads the way to the center stage. With a hand flourish, a three-dimensional holographic rendering of the edge of Niganda appears. An ancient shoreline on the far side of the Nyanza. Once that image settles, Jiang overlays it with the image of the proposed project: a tourist park, residential area, industrial zone, commercial zone, tech park, art district, all terminating at the dam in progress.
“We want to turn the city into a high-tech hub. One of the world’s largest cities with the largest port.” Jiang all but beams with pride. “It’s all about responsible investment.”
“Responsible foreign investment is an oxymoron.” At the sudden silence, I glance around. Everyone shifts toward me. I had accidentally used my outside voice.
“Go on,” T’Challa says.
“When I first read the proposal, it looked generous,” I begin, hiding the quiver of uncertainty in my voice. “The deals and loans weren’t profitable for China’s Commercial Holdings International bank.”
“Why do we listen to the naïve prattling of a child?” Jiang’s umbrage sears as a visible scar of a sneer across his face.
“The way you talk to the youngest of our citizens is emblematic of how you see all of us. This ‘child’ is a valued member of my inner circle. The children of Wakanda are trained as leaders from the time they can speak. And are free to share their thoughts.” T’Challa nods for me to continue.
“But,” I emphasize the word for good measure, “when you read the fine print, should a country fail to meet the terms of the loan, Chinese corporations and, by extension, the government of China will control those projects for their interests. Outright.”
“The finer points of international commerce may be lost on you. We pay our fair share in taxes to the countries we do business in. Azania. Canaan. Narobia. Niganda. We promote African autonomy and independence because we need more trading partners. Again, we only want to be a friend to the hei ren.”
That means “black people.” The way he says it, I hear a hard “r.”
“Africa has no friends. Only exploiters. The history of empty promises and condescension from the West has made us wary. We know when we’re addressed as equals. After all, we, too, are a nation of banks.”
This is exactly why I hate political intrigue. There are simply times you need to just straight cuss someone out to their face. Speaking of, T’Challa’s face devolves beyond a poker face. Like he’s able to hide even his, I don’t know, spirit from me. There’s just a wall where a man should be. Ruling seems to be about managed paranoia. Calculating what your enemies are up to, even what your friends are up to, since everyone moves according to their own self-interest. An outsider can only know T’Challa from his actions, and even those are layers within schemes. A lonely place within the halls of power.
A flutter in the hologram draws my attention.
“Is this a live feed?” I ask.
“Yes it is.” Jiang relaxes, sounding entirely pleased with himself.
“My king…” I nod toward a shimmer on the screen. The slightest ripple, but to those who know what they were looking at, it’s the signature distortion effect produced by the way Hatut Zeraze’s cloaking technology bends light. Hunter. The king surely saw it, though his face didn’t betray a flicker of recognition. Then I wonder if I was supposed to alert anyone to it at all, and curse my big mouth. Jiang squints, but he doesn’t know what to look for.
“If one of your operatives sabotages our work,” the businessman blusters, his assumptions filling in the blanks of what he can’t see, “we will hold you personally responsible.”
“No.” A heightened measure of alarm fills Jiang’s voice. “We will see it as an intrusion of our sovereignty.”
“And, yet, you have no standing here. Niganda is not your nation.”
“Nor yours.” Jiang straightens his suit as if unruffled. The elephant crapping in the pool being that Niganda is a kleptocracy on its best day. Its loyalty bought by whoever has the largest check at the moment. “Besides, we have sensitive corporate intelligence issues in play here. We would not want to put Your Highness in a position to be accused of espionage.”
“If there are any rogue elements, I shall gather them before anyone is compromised.”
“Your Highness, there is simply no need. We…” Jiang’s voice trails off as he considers his words. It must be important, because he usually flows with no kind of filter. “Such an egregious trespass will not be tolerated. You’ll be wise not to meddle in our business affairs.”
“This was not a request.” T’Challa whirls on his heel with the ease and power of a hurricane changing course. Pity any who got in his way.
* * *
“WHERE TO?” Preparing to punch coordinates into the Talon, a Wakandan stealth jet, I glance back toward the king.
“To the Nigandan site, Beloved.” T’Challa’s suit transforms, his jacket fading into the ceremonial vestments of his tribal rank. ’Cause, seriously, who was going to take that suit from him. Vibranium soles. Energy daggers. Built-in night vision. Claws made of anti-metal, a Vibranium alloy that destabilizes the molecular structure of other metal it comes in contact with. No longer chieftain in title, he was still the Black Panther.
And he must mean business, because he’s not wearing the cape.
(I’m not one to judge another’s drip, but I never felt the cape.)
I hate it when he does that, like a doctor diagnosing you before you’re ready to admit that you’re sick. “How many Wakandans are out there as part of the Diaspora?”
“None?” Even my voice arches in skepticism.
“None of our people were ever enslaved.”
“I wonder what Killmonger would have to say about that.” I regret my words as they leave my mouth. “I’m so sorry, my King. I chose my words poorly.”
Funny how I get all “my King” whenever I remember he’s not the typical member of the long underwear club. He’s actual royalty. It’s within his discretion to order my execution as a matter of state. I might slip and catch a case for treason. No, that’s not what fuels it. It’s more that I am reminded of the fundamental respect I have for the man. The title comes along for the ride, but it’s the man I never want to disappoint. Or hurt.
“Say your piece, Beloved,” his tone gentle and inviting.
Flying over mud hut villages with thatched roofs, coconut groves along the beach, reminds me how close we are to the villages of the Crystal Forest.
“It’s just that while even Ghana welcomes those of us from the Diaspora home, it feels like Wakanda has turned its back on us.” I feel myself getting heated. Like all the years away from my tribe, hidden away in Chicago—all the things I’d seen, all the moments I lost—bubble up as… anger. “What have you invested in your brothers and sisters? I shouldn’t have to convince you that all Black lives matter.”
For what felt like years, silence sits between us.
“Did I offend you, my King?” I am so conscious of my words I tread extra lightly.
“I read your assessment regarding the banking deal.” His voice as inscrutable as his face, he taps his Kimoyo card. “Kimoyo” is Bantu for “of the spirit” and is the name of the Wakandan tech that works like a supercomputing tablet. “You have some observations. Remember, we do not play their game on their terms. I am adjusting your suggested protocols.” He pulls his mask into place. “We are almost there. Be sharp.”
The White Wolf skulks in the shadows of the castle remains. He’s plainly up to something I just can’t tell from up here. T’Challa doesn’t wait for me to land. He opens the Talon’s window above him and leaps out. With no parachute.
I’d like to say that I’m used to this sort of action, but my heart nearly squeezes my throat shut. I know enough not to cry out in concern, and search for the nearest landing spot instead.
Though I manage to land ahead of him, he passes me without acknowledgement. The wind blows through the leaves like the whispers of ghosts, louder than any sound marking his passage. The scariest thing about T’Challa when he’s in Black Panther hunting mode is his eyes. Unknowable black mirrors. Everything becomes prey to him, always stalking, always three steps ahead. It’s exhausting to watch, so I can’t imagine what it was like to live like that.
Fun fact: the Castelo de Sao Jorge de Mina in Elmina, Ghana, was the first trading post built on the Gulf of Guinea, the oldest European building south of the Sahara. It became a key stop on the Atlantic slave trade. It wasn’t the only slave fort built. Slave traders constructed the forts in the most defensible positions, fortified against pirates and other European nations they were at war with. The Portuguese demolished the homes of villagers to make room for them, the same way folks tore up our neighborhoods back in Chicago to make way for the highway.
One such fort occupied the bay on Nyanza.
A dry, double moat surrounds a huge rectangular castle along a rocky perch above a dam. A white-washed fortress, five stories high, surrounding a stone courtyard. The ruins of the inner façade of the bastions built from lime, stone, and bricks. From the remains of the towers, windows like empty eyes stare over the ground-level warehouses that once stored gold, brandy, tobacco, weapons. Below them, the dungeons. In the eerie silence, I can hear the wailing of my ancestors. People left to languish in those prisons waiting for slave ships to collect them. Their food passed to them through iron gates. No toilets. No bed berths. Only the small holes at either end of the ceiling for light or fresh air. Untold hundreds died there in the oppressive heat, left to an existence of terror, death, and darkness. Until one day, the fortunate survivors passed through an unassuming gate—the gate of no return—where they were loaded into ships, never to be seen by their kinsmen again.
In the slave fort’s shadow was the dam.
“Hunter, stand down,” the Black Panther shouts with the authoritative voice of someone used to being obeyed.
“My King, the last charge is almost in place.” Hunter doesn’t look up.
“Do not do this thing. This trespass is a matter of state.”
“Command me in all things, my King. Tell me not to reveal the truth and I will submit.”
T’Challa pauses an extra heartbeat. There is an unspoken language between siblings. The knowing nods and furtive eye glances.
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