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Black Panther: The Young Prince

Check out an excerpt of the novel by Coretta Scott King award-winning author Ronald L. Smith!

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Black Panther. Ruler of Wakanda. Avenger. This is his destiny.

But right now, he’s simply T’Challa, the young prince in “Black Panther: The Young Prince” from Coretta Scott King award-winning author Ronald L. Smith. Smith explores life at 12 years old for T’Challa in his home of Wakanda, an isolated, technologically advanced African nation. “Black Panther: The Young Prince” is available now wherever books are sold.

When T’Challa’s not learning how to rule a kingdom from his father, the reigning Black Panther, or testing out the latest tech, he’s off breaking rules with his best friend, M’Baku. But as conflict brews near Wakanda, T’Challa’s father makes a startling announcement—he’s sending T’Challa and M’Baku to school in America. This is no prestigious private academy—they’ve been enrolled at South Side Middle School in the heart of Chicago. Despite being given a high-tech suit and a Vibranium ring to use only in case of an emergency, T’Challa realizes he might not be as equipped to handle life in America as he thought. Especially when it comes to navigating new friendships while hiding his true identity as the prince of a powerful nation, and avoiding Gemini Jones, a menacing classmate who is rumored to be involved in dark magic.

When strange things begin happening around school, T’Challa sets out to uncover the source. But what he discovers in the process is far more sinister than he could ever imagined. In order to protect his friends and stop an ancient evil, T’Challa must take on the mantle of a hero, setting him on the path to becoming the Black Panther.

Read the following two chapters from this coming-of-age novel now!

CHAPTER ONE

The young prince fled through the forest, his pursuer hot on his heels.

His heartbeat thundered in his ears. He couldn’t give up. Not this time.

He ducked a low-hanging branch and splashed through a muddy creek. His attacker was gaining on him. He could almost hear his breath on his back.

There—

Up ahead, a fallen tree.

He jumped, and—

His legs were pulled out from under him.

He crashed to the ground. Strong hands grabbed his ankles. He tried to break free, but his foe rolled him over and pinned him to the damp forest floor.

“I got you this time,” M’Baku hissed. “Nowhere to run now.”

The young prince gasped for air. “Okay, okay,” he said. “You won. This time. Wanna go again?”

M’Baku rose and extended a hand, pulling his friend up with a firm grip.

“If it hadn’t been for that log . . .” the prince started, brushing dirt from his linen trousers.

M’Baku smirked. “Excuses, excuses. I beat you fair and square, T’Challa.”

T’Challa looked up and cocked his head. “Don’t you know it’s not smart to mock your superiors?”

M’Baku bowed low in fake sincerity. “Oh, mighty prince, please forgive me for the error of my ways. I am but a lowly servant.”

T’Challa rolled his eyes.

M’Baku was T’Challa’s closest friend. They did everything together—sneaking out when they were supposed to be studying, playing practical jokes on unsuspecting victims, and sometimes venturing as far as the neighboring city, even though T’Challa was supposed to have a personal guard with him at all times. Like now, for instance.

One thing he would never forget was the look on his father’s face when he came home late once after being gone for hours. The whole tribe was out looking for you, his father had said. There are dangers in the forest, T’Challa. You must always be wary.

It was a lesson he took to heart, but every now and then, M’Baku egged him on, daring him to break every rule the king laid out for him.

The forest around them was vast, teeming with lush vegetation and towering trees that seemed to brush the very heavens. In the distance, a mountain range rose high above the clouds, the midday sun glinting off its white peaks.

“C’mon,” M’Baku said. “I’ll race you to the river’s edge.”

T’Challa wiped sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. He was tired, but he couldn’t let M’Baku know that. He crouched low, ready to sprint.

“Go!” M’Baku shouted.

Both boys dashed through the forest, trampling broken branches and leaping over fallen tree stumps. This was when T’Challa felt most alive, in the woods with his best friend, finding adventure and escaping his royal duties. Out here, he wasn’t a prince. He was just a kid.

M’Baku passed him, kicking up dirt in his path. T’Challa pushed himself as hard as he could. He was gaining on him.

But M’Baku had suddenly stopped on the path.

T’Challa swerved at the last minute, missing him by inches. He bent and rested his hands on his knees, winded. “Why’d you stop?”

M’Baku slowly raised his hand and pointed. “Look.”

A few feet ahead of them, a man lay slumped against a tree. He wore a military uniform, but it was one T’Challa had never seen before.

“Is he dead?” M’Baku whispered.

T’Challa didn’t answer, but took a few steps forward. The man had a bandage around his leg, where his pants had been ripped. Blood soaked it red. “Help,” he croaked out. “Please. Help me.”

T’Challa took another wary step. He didn’t know who the man was, but his father always said it was his duty to help those in trouble.

A rustling in the bushes made them both pause. M’Baku started. “What was that?”

T’Challa didn’t have time to answer, as four figures stepped through the trees.

CHAPTER TWO

They were tall. And they were all women. Tribal markings adorned their faces. They were the Dora Milaje, the king’s private bodyguards and the fiercest warriors in the country.

Hints of gold and silver glinted from the bracelets and cuffs around their necks and arms. Their spear points sparkled in the sun that filtered through the canopy of trees above them. T’Challa had seen those spears before, and knew that they also doubled as giant batons equipped with electrical charges.

T’Challa tensed.

“My prince,” one of them said, stepping forward with a slight bow and placing her right hand on her heart. “The king has demanded your presence.”

T’Challa was taken aback. “This man,” he started, coming back to the moment. “He needs help. He was mauled, or—”

“We will take care of him,” the woman said, without the slightest hint of sympathy.

The man tried to get up, but one of the Dora Milaje thrust her spear just inches from his neck. “Don’t leave me with them,” he pleaded, his eyes going wide. “Please!”

T’Challa didn’t want to leave, but he had to obey his father’s command—even if he did feel sorry for this strange man and whatever plight he had fallen into. He turned to M’Baku. “I’ll see you later. I have to—”

“He is also summoned,” the woman interrupted him. “Both of you.” She cast a sidelong glance at M’Baku. “Now.”

The young prince hesitated with each step he took.

“What does he want with me?” M’Baku whispered, a hint of fear in his voice.

“I don’t know,” T’Challa replied. He was busy thinking of what could have happened to the injured man. He’d looked terrified. Was it a wild animal? A lion? What was he doing in the forest?

The dense thicket of trees ahead of them thinned to reveal a sight that only a few from the outside world had ever seen. Towering structures loomed up out of the forest.

They weren’t just skyscrapers. They curved and swooped, twisted and turned, and seemed to defy the laws of physics. Sunlight shone off steel and metal surfaces, sending shards of light into the surrounding woods. It would be a strange picture for someone unfamiliar with the landscape—a futuristic city rising up out of a jungle—but this was no ordinary place. It was Wakanda, the most technologically advanced nation on the face of the earth, and it was ruled by T’Chaka, the Black Panther and King of Wakanda. This was the Golden City.

The Dora Milaje paused in front of the Royal Palace, their spear points lowered to the ground. The palace rose up out of the ground like a great orb, with a single door framed in gold and jade. Darkness beckoned from within. T’Challa turned to look at M’Baku, then both boys stepped through.

T’Challa’s footsteps echoed in his ears. The floors were black jade and highly polished, casting a shadowy reflection back up at him. A massive slab of obsidian carved into the shape of a panther crouched at the far end of the room, ready to pounce. Its color was beyond black—a lustrous, inky hue that had no equal. The eyes were its most intimidating feature—two red gemstones that seemed to pierce T’Challa’s very soul. When he was a child, he was afraid of those eyes, but now he saw them as a reminder of his nation—strong and always alert.

Up ahead, his father sat on the Panther Throne, its surface studded with gleaming stones and rare metals. The throne would someday be T’Challa’s—if he could pass the grueling tests and gain the ceremonial title of Black Panther.

His father seemed to take up all the air in the room. Just his presence alone was enough to make grown men bow their heads in reverence. He wore the robes and heraldry of the Panther Tribe, and his garments shifted in color as T’Challa approached.

But his father wasn’t alone.

M’Baku’s father, N’Gamo, who sat on the king’s war council, stood next to him.

M’Baku bowed his head as he stood before his king, then glanced at his father, who remained motionless, like a soldier carved from wood.

The King of Wakanda rose from his throne. He was a big man, broad-shouldered and strong, and the weight of the nation rested on his shoulders.

“Son,” he began. “M’Baku. Where have you been?”

The torches in the wall flickered, as if his voice were strong enough to extinguish them.

T’Challa swallowed. His mouth was dry. “In the forest, Father. Playing games. I finished my studies and all of my lessons are complete.”

The king nodded slowly. He eyed M’Baku, and then his gaze drifted back to T’Challa. “I have called you here because there is trouble brewing in the kingdom.”

N’Gamo finally stirred. “My spymaster has received troubling reports of unknown invaders on our borders. We have intercepted some of their transmissions.”

T’Challa’s heart skipped. “We saw a strange man. He wasn’t from Wakanda. He was injured by an animal. Is he . . . one of them?”

“He will be questioned,” the Black Panther replied, “and we will certainly find out.”

N’Gamo gave a grim smile.

“Who are they?” T’Challa asked. “Where are they from?”

The Black Panther glanced at M’Baku briefly before returning his gaze to T’Challa. “I will tell you, in time. But for now, you must stay safe. If war is on the horizon, I will not put your life at risk. So I am sending you away, for the time being.”

T’Challa swallowed nervously. Surely he was hearing things.

“You will join him,” N’Gamo said to M’Baku. “Perhaps the two of you can keep an eye on each other, and not get into too much trouble.”

T’Challa pulled at his collar, but before he could ask another question, M’Baku asked it for him. “Where?” he said timidly, averting his gaze from the king. “Where will we be going?”

The king sat down. A ring shone on his finger, a simple silver band, but T’Challa knew it was much more than that. “I have associates in America,” he said. “I know a place where you will both be safe.”

America, thought T’Challa. He had heard of the distant land, but Wakandans seldom traveled there, preferring never to leave their kingdom. Everything they needed was right here, including the source of their wealth and livelihood— Vibranium.

T’Challa cast a furtive at glance at M’Baku, who seemed to have frozen where he stood. “Where in America?” he asked.

“You will be going to Chicago,” his father replied.

T’Challa cocked an eyebrow. “Chicago?” He tried to recall anything he had heard about the city, but came up blank.

“Yes,” the Black Panther answered.

“We have enrolled you both at a school,” N’Gamo said. “South Side Middle School. You must assume new identities.”

T’Challa’s head spun.

“A regular school?” he ventured. “With regular kids?”

“I have many enemies,” the king said. “And I will not have them know of your whereabouts. Therefore, you will be posing as exchange students from Kenya. My friends at the African Embassy of Nations will be your cover.”

T’Challa frowned, but tried to not let his dismay show. What his father said was true. He was used to being wary all his life. The kidnapping of a young prince could make a determined criminal very rich. If, he thought, his father didn’t destroy them first.

“You will leave in a few days’ time,” the king said. “But first, we will have a feast in your honor.”

Chicago, T’Challa thought, and finally remembered something he’d heard about the city.

It was said to be very cold there.

“Black Panther: The Young Prince” is available now wherever books are sold.