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The wind blew in four directions where we stopped. We were high up on a hill. My body felt sticky and gummy, I hadn’t had a bath for the last three days because we had been marching non‐stop. Suddenly my drifting thoughts were interrupted by the clear silk harsh voice of warrior prince Akpoti, `we have gotten to the final stop’, he said, his voice ringing like a bell in my ears. `the plains are what lie between us and the men of xendu’. The men of xendu, who hadn’t heard of them? None amongst us had seen them but their deeds surpass words. Village after village and kingdom after kingdom had fallen by the edge of their blade. `wash yourselves and rest for tomorrow we go before the men of xendu as men, strong willed men prepared to die for honour, men ready to lay down their lives to protect all that we love, our wives, our mothers, our children our lands and above all preserve our kingdom. We have been prepared for this all our lives and tomorrow we shall carry out our duty to the king. We exterminate or get exterminated!’` Remember to be a warrior is not an easy task’. “To be a warrior is not an easy task”, those words kept ringing in my ears, kept repeating themselves like they had a mind of their own. Did I actually know what I signed up for when I decided to become one? Did I actually open my eyes to choose this profession? Was I blind? NO! I don’t think so. It would seem rather that the profession chose me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a coward, had never been one and would never be one. < I washed my face with a little water and rubbed some on my body too> Heading towards my tent for the night I discovered that I really needed the rest, three days without sleep had told on me seriously, my movements were sluggish and my reactions slow. This was not good especially for a warrior. As I settled down that night on the grass to sleep, I reflected on my thirty one years of existence in this world. I’m Dimpka Diopa, second son of Alaba the farmer, he himself the last born son of Kiwiwi Hawkeye, Hunters huntsman, son of the needle. My father was an average farmer while my grandfather was a great huntsman well renowned inside and outside Leog. From childhood it was clear that I inherited the keen eye of my grandfather. Many thought I would take after him but upon attaining puberty, I exhibited traits of my mother’s tribesmen; light footedness. A few years after, an incident confirmed me as the true son of my father. To prevent a forest fire from reaching our farmland and ultimately destroying it, I dug a mile long trench without pausing for rest. I collapsed there as soon as I finished unable to move. I was discovered few hours later when in the fracas caused by the discovery of the fire, my absence was noted. My singular effort saved quite a number of farmlands and surpassed anything my father did as a youth. Soon after that I stumbled into the sport of wrestling. With my speed, agility, stamina, keen eye and quick reactions/reflexes, I triumphed, winnings coming one after the other. The thing was though; I wasn’t the strongest, I was very smart and skilled and these along
with a combination of other factors made me a force to be reckoned with in the wrestling circles. It was one of those days, after a good wrestling match that I was asked by a royal scout to become a warrior, to join the newly formed elite caste of warriors that operated hand in hand with the crown. I took a chance then, risked it and I have never looked back since, that is until today. How far had I risen in the caste? I asked myself. Looking back I saw that my track record wasn’t impressive. I was just a normal man, amongst the dregs of the warrior caste, but I don’t blame myself. Upon arrival into the warrior caste it dawned on me that strength was needed in all things. Not just normal strength but brute strength. How would you use skills against someone as skilled as you are whom is even stronger? Impossible! So I had to be content with the lowly positions assigned to me, consoling myself that every position must be filled. On the whole it wasn’t that bad...at least the pay was good and being an elite warrior from Leog definitely boosted my sex appeal as I got married to a most beautiful and caring girl in Leog. As of now I have two sons both aged 13 and 11 respectively and in everything I do now, I always consider them, placing them first, or how else would it sound to them later in life that their father was a coward? Thinking these thoughts and my face filled with beautiful images of my family, my only consolation in life, I fell asleep. .................................................................................................................................................... I was relaxed, refreshed and ready to kill. My armour was shining and the sun reflected off my breastplate like a mirror. `MEN OF LEOG!! IT’S TIME TO FACE OUR DESTINY AS WARRIORS!!!’ Prince Akpoti’s words pierced through my thoughts like a knife through sour milk. `THE MEN OF XENDU HAVE PILLAGED THROUGH AFRICA LIKE ANTS AND NOW THEY WANT TO TRESPASS ON THE NORTHERN KINGDOM!! SOLDIERS OF THE NORTH WE ARE AND WE SHALL NOT RELENT IN OUR EFFORT TO STOP THEM!! At this moment my thoughts went to my beautiful wife, my two sons and images of the times we had together as one family flashed through my mind. So this is the end of...`EVEN IN DEATH IT SHALL BE REMEMBERED THAT WE THE MEN OF LEOG! SOLDIERS OF THE NORTH! WARRIORS OF THE ELITE!! STOOD UP AGAINST THE TYRANNY OF THE XENDU EMPIRE! Once again the prince’s words interrupted my thoughts. All the warriors looked firm and taut with grave expressions on their faces. I looked to my right and saw my childhood friend and playmate Oro. How does it feel like to die? I murmured to him. `Don’t worry; we shall soon know’ he answered and then smiled his characteristic weak smile. Chaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarge!!!! The command was so sudden that I had to jerk myself forward. As we ran swords and spears in hand with our mindset on death, the grass bent to the will of our feet and we made the noise THUMP! STUMP!! STOMP!!! CLANK! That was the sound as metal met metal and strength met strength as we gazed upon the faces of our foes for the first and last time. Their skin was yellow and they
appeared monstrously strong and skilled. They moved like one with the wind and kept on pouring like ants. WHAM! We fell on them like a machete falling on grass, they recoiled as THWACK! They counterattacked like stubborn grass refusing to be cut. I kept running and pierced my sword into the chest of the first soldier in my way; I removed it, ducked to dodge a blow from an enemy and countered slicing his head off. This was war. Everywhere around me was gory. TCHWANG! I had turned just in time to block another blow from an enemy. My quick reflexes were working for me this time around. I pushed with all my strength and before he could recover enough to regain his composure, my sword had lodged in and checked out of his chest in a matter of seconds. He fell down, and before his head hit the ground I had engaged another foe. The fighting was intense and I was already sweating like a Christmas goat but my senses were sharper than ever. In this state I turned only to face another warrior. They were strong but not fast. In a matter of seconds his insides were on the ground. With this speed I turned only to discover my weapon hooked by another, I looked up to see an ugly monster looking down at me. He looked like a redbull and held my stare for a few seconds. Hrmppfh! He groaned and took a move. With my weapon trapped I was at a loss for what to do. Suddenly I made a move, he was big and heavy and so.... slow... to speak, I removed the flash powder we warriors carried along with us everywhere we went and aimed it straight into his eyes. He was momentarily stunned and in that moment I freed my sword and concentrating all my strength, struck a vital blow lodging my sword between his ribs. Panting, I pushed it some more. Sure of the potency of my weapon I moved closer to him as he fell on his knees to dislodge the sword, but as my hands touched the hilt, I felt another set of hands close over mine. Instinctively I looked up only to see his eyes open and brown jagged teeth smiling at me. That was the last thing I saw before I felt something terribly big and huge (his head) hit my face. The pain was so intense that it rushed down from the point of contact, washing through my whole body. I moved back momentarily dazed for a few seconds and upon seeing through the stars that dazed me, snapped. Throwing all caution to the wind, I brought out two daggers from my back wanting to hurt him as much as I could and in my blind fury I attacked the ugly son of a monster in front of me. He wasn’t dumb and so pulled out an axe to face me squarely. I used the daggers on him till their blades were bent. And then they broke yet he kept on coming like a bull. My fury was spent and my body weak and yet he was still coming. This time around, I knew there was no way around it , my body was already bathed in my own blood and I had deep cuts and bruises all over me. I was feeling faint. I looked around me; we were surely losing the battle. For every northern warrior I saw standing, I saw two of Xendu. He was close, so I steeled myself for the final blow, picking up the dead soldier’s sword lying on the floor next to me. Aeeeaaaarrrrhhhh! I ran forward, sword raised to meet him mid‐charge. Just when the swords were supposed to impact and metal supposed to scratch metal, he did a feint and with speed I thought him not capable of, rushed back and struck me a vital blow on my shoulder. I must admit, I never saw it coming. My scream joined the market of screams of death being traded between both sides as I
clutched my shoulder in a desperate bid to stop the spontaneous flow of blood. The pain racked my body but it didn't end at that, he turned to serve the blow that would severe my head off its support. Weak from the rapid loss of blood, I fell to my knees. My blood was gushing down my hands and my vision was getting blurred. He raised the axe and I closed my eyes, but it never came down. I opened my eyes and saw my warrior prince at his back, the monsters hand holding the axe having been cut off, rolling in the dust as his blood mingled with sand. He kicked me forward, out of the way and I fell into a pond. As the water slowly submerged me, I took in everything that was happening around for perhaps the last time with my blood blurred vision. My warrior prince matched the now one handed monster skill for skill, strength for strength but lo and behold it was a lost cause for as that monster fell, two more came and took his place. It indeed was a lost cause for Leog as our forces were far outnumbered and dwindling fast. The water touched my beard and I smiled. `you have done well’ I told myself. I had paid with my life for the hero’s honour like Kpeti, Njovo and others before me. I could consider myself a fulfilled man, one who died to protect his mother land. As my head hit the bottom of the pond, the encumbering darkness took over completely. I saw something then heard nothing and saw nothing. I was dead. .................................................................................................................................................... The battle was over, they could progress at last. They were the advance regiment of Genghis khan of Xendu, unstoppable and unbeatable. Kingdoms had surrendered at their approach and kings in respect, had fallen off their thrones for them, but this one they were headed to were insolent and stubborn. They had killed their peace ambassadors that they had sent to them to negotiate and had the guts to send back their heads. He was going to overrun their kingdom ruthlessly, he was going to embark on a massacre unlike any other ever seen in the history of the world. Maybe then, his father would look upon him with the favour he deserved. `Commander! That’s the last one of them that we picked up.’ A soldier reported, interrupting his thoughts. `Are you sure?’ he inquired. Yes sir! The Xendu soldier replied. Pack them into heaps and set them ablaze, he ordered. `Those dead monkeys, they certainly had guts coming against us like that but I must give it to them, they were strong and impressive, for us to suffer losses of this magnitude’ he thought silently to himself. `They were such a waste of valuable fighting material that would have been good enough for his father’s empire. They might have done well but damn those animals, they didn’t have brains, they had only brute’ he thought to himself again as the soldier moved to carry out his orders. `Where’s Ren?’ he asked shaking off the idle thoughts in his head. `He said he wanted to checkout some nefarious disturbance coming from the pond sir!’ another soldier replied.
`What was it?’ he enquired. `He said he saw water splashing around sir, more like someone was trashing around inside the pond sir!’ the same soldier added. `And he isn’t back?’ The commander asked getting quickly irritated by internal suspicions. `No Sir!’ The soldier replied. Ren was his gay companion; things wouldn’t be rosy if he couldn’t have him to himself that night. `EVERYONE MOVE TO THE POND NOW...WE MAY HAVE A SITUATION ON OUR HANDS’ the commander shouted to the idle soldiers lying around. Those dead monkeys, they resorted to the use of black magic grrrrr.....I’ll show them, he thought to himself, as he headed towards the pond with his men. He got to the pond and saw nothing; it was like a scene from his childhood. Then he saw the wooden sign floating in the water. It was a banner of Xendu. As his fingers clasped over it, another hand clasped over his and pulled him in. Screams filled the place as the creature ascended out of the water unleashing terror on the men of Xendu who survived the battle, not stopping until every single one of them lay down on the ground... stone dead. .................................................................................................................................................... Elsewhere in Leog, the terrible news of the elites defeat on the battlefield was about to be delivered to the father of the head elite, the king of the northern kingdom. The royal scout rushed in, damning everyone in his path as he rushed straight up to the palace without pausing to greet any one. He got to the palace and wasn’t stopped, he was expected. He kept running till he got to the king’s chambers. There, he paused for a breather before entering into the chamber. He walked straight up to the king’s throne and knelt before him, panting. `I’m sorry your majesty’ he reported, `but we lost all our elite on the battlefield, they died valiantly and succeeded in preventing the men of Xendu from getting through the Fulon pass’. `And my son?’ the king, fearing the very worst inquired. `He...he... died along... with them your majesty’ the scout stuttered. `All the bodies were set ablaze and are charred beyond recognition and...’ `and what?’ the king asked in a booming voice filled with anger. `The battlefield your majesty, it was abnormal like an avalanche hit it, everything looked so out of...’ `It’s abnormal!’ The king cuts in. `Is that what you’re telling me? My son! My only son!! The heir to the throne of Leog, is dead and all you have to tell me is that where he died is abnormal??’ `I’m sorry your majesty’ the scout muttered. `GET OUT! GET OUT! Let me be!’ `I know I shouldn’t have let him go ‘the king muttered to himself as soon as the scout was out of earshot, `it’s just that he looked so strong, so capable.’ `NOOOoooooooooooooooooooo!’ he wailed, breaking down completely, losing his composure and giving in to tears, `and now he’s gone too, oOOh! Akpoti, my beloved son’ he wept, `this is not how I wanted it to be...’ `Your majesty, are you alright?’ A guard, sensitive to the strange muffled sounds coming out of the king’s private chamber asked in alarm. `I’m... I’m fine, just let me be’ he replied, in a voice thickly laced with sorrow. ....................................................................................................................................................
A soldier goes into the general’s quarters; he was armed with news of the advance squad sent to infiltrate Africa via the northern pass. The commander of that squad was a son of Genghis khan, so it was sensitive information that the soldier held. He entered into the quarters and saluted. `The infiltration was unsuccessful general sir!’ The soldier reported. `WHAT!’ The general exclaimed. `We lost all our men on the battle field’ he added, leaving the general with a headache on how to report the incident to the great khan. .................................................................................................................................................... DROP! DROP! DRIP! From within, inside the swirling blackness, I felt the wetness from above against my skin. I felt every single drop as it landed on me. I opened my eyes and saw that my whole body was bathed in blood. My muscles and bones felt weak and I felt tired like a man who had been running nonstop for miles. I looked around; it was raining and I was surrounded by luxurious lush green undergrowth and tall trees, but couldn’t remember a damn thing, hard though, I tried. How I got there? Who I was? It was like trying to read through a blank book. Then suddenly a sash caught my eye, it was dirty, brown, worn and torn, probably used to be white. On it was written LE. I searched everywhere in vain for the other part and was giving up on the search when I found it hanging on my waist; it was also stained with blood and read `OG’. I joined both pieces and together and it read `LEOG’. `What did that mean?’ I wondered. Who was it? Was it a place? I carried it along with me, hoping to find some answers after I found my way out of the forest. The first woman I encountered looked at me funny as if I was a ghost or something, but at least she told me what Leog was and gave me directions to get there. Its...I don’t understand...how I can’t seem to remember anything about myself, what happened, how I came to be in a forest, who I am, my name or anything else for that matter. I felt so confused, but in the midst of that confusion, one thing was sure; all the answers I needed lay in Leog. Weary and tired after days of walking and living on fruits, I got to the place called Leog at the dead of night. The symbol of the eye on my worn and dirty sash corresponded with the symbol on the gates. As I got closer I saw that the city had gone to sleep. Not a single light could be seen by me. Seeing that the gates were locked, I got on the floor, picking up a stone to rest my head upon, softening the hardness by wrapping my sash around it and resting there for the night. I had gotten to my destination; everything was going to be all right.
I woke up the next day and the sun was already high up in the sky. I felt the pangs of hunger gnawing at my stomach and fighting it, I stood up to enter the city. It was a beautiful day but nobody seemed to be around. I entered into the city and the streets were deserted. All the buildings were good and well maintained but there were no traces of human life. I kept walking, everything, everywhere was closed. I walked for the next fifteen minutes and still nothing. The place felt familiar in a vague sort of way that I couldn’t explain. I kept walking, passing corners, turning from this corner into the next alley and still nobody. It felt strange to me. The pangs of hunger were already getting to me, I didn’t know what to do about it anymore. I fell on the floor, grunting from the weakness of my body. Then I heard human voices. It was many of them, they said something incorrigible in unison at once and that was it. It wasn’t much but it was enough to get me moving in the right direction. I kept walking till I stumbled into somewhere filled with so many people that I couldn’t count. It was like the whole city was gathered there. Someone was talking but I couldn’t see him. I wasn’t interested in what he was saying, I was hungry. FOOD! I screamed from where I stood. All of them turned at once to look at me. The person talking must have been pretty important for my interruption to have caused that much of a stir. More than half a million eyes turned to glare at me. Food! I mumbled in a much quieter voice. Then the voice of a child screamed `mother He’s naked!’. The next thing I heard was; `THE gods SAVE US ALL!.....DIMPKA!!! SEIZE HIM! SEIZE HIM!! It was the man who had been talking. He was dressed regally in black and wore a crown. He was their king. It was then I noticed every other person was also dressed in black. Mumblings of a thousand voices filled the air as about a hundred guards moved forward to obey his order. They came forward forming a semi circle as they moved, pointing their spears at me. Food! I whispered, as I collapsed. `Didn’t they know I was harmless’ I wondered, as I lay on the floor exhausted, `I was just a hungry man who had stumbled upon them in a search for food and answers’. .................................................................................................................................................... Several days later, I was in the prison, labelled a treacherous warrior who betrayed Leog for Xendu and came back, hired to kill the king, hence causing instability that will bring about the downfall and ultimate conquest of the northern kingdom. I didn’t even know what that meant. All my protests and pleas fell on deaf ears. Only my sons believed me. Even my wife doubted me; they thought I was pathetic, lying through my teeth about memory loss to escape judgement. They also refused to believe it was a mere coincidence that I returned on the day my comrades were being buried. At last judgement was passed; death by hanging for high treason. I could remember the scene vividly; ‘you’re guilty for desertion, betraying the northern kingdom and conspiring with enemies to assassinate the king, which equals high treason’ the King barked. ‘My judgement is death by hanging on the last day of the fifth month and before that, he
must be tortured to release all information he has concerning his allies. Use of absolute force, if necessary is permitted’. ‘I’m telling the truth! I don’t remember! I am not a traitor!’ I screamed in the hope that the king would reconsider. ‘Be quiet! You’ve forgotten what honour is all about. For mere material comforts you betrayed your prince’s trust, all that he believed and died for, you selfishly dealt with the enemy to ensure the preservation of your life. You’re nothing but a pathetic coward. You don’t deserve to be called a northerner’. ‘Your majesty! Believe me! I don’t even remember the prince, why would I lie?! Please believe me. I have no... ‘Take him away’, the king calmly ordered as he rose from his throne, indicating the end of my trial. My judgement had been passed; death by hanging for high treason. I cried as I was taken away‐ cowardly tears they called it‐ manly tears I considered it. A cry of my innocence, innocence that no one believed in, but like the adage says; the gods see all. .............................................................................................................................................. That morning felt nostalgic, I don’t know what’s so special about one’s death day but those words described exactly how I felt. I was about to be killed in the most disgraceful way a northerner could ever die, the same way murderers were killed. Even a hardened criminal wasn’t killed this way, wasn’t treated this way. I was a fallen warrior, equalling a failed human being and because of that I was beaten mercilessly, and treated like an animal. Though I couldn’t remember a thing about my life, all my pleas fell on deaf ears. I insisted now and again that I didn’t know how I survived but nobody would listen, they all agreed that they last saw me ride out with the prince and the elite warriors he commanded, but beyond that, none knew a thing and so I was judged based on assumptions. I felt very bad. I'm sure I never would have wanted to end up like this. I didn’t think I was a coward. I felt like screaming out but like the guard told me earlier on, I had done enough already, I should consider my family before doing anymore. He even went as far as telling me that he used to respect me, had wanted his son to be like me, but not anymore; he had lost all iota of respect he used to have for me. Everyone had done the same...except my sons, they still believed in me. I was brought back to the same place I had had been taken captive, the place where the memory of my comrades had been honoured, to be killed. It was the Center of the kingdom, the city’s square.
`Do you have any last words?’ the executioner asked me as I stood underneath the hang mans noose. `Yes I do...’ `Then be fast about it!’ The executioner barked. Turning to face the crowd which turned out en‐masse to watch my execution, I began; `I believe I’m innocent, I said and...’ GBAM! My speech was interrupted by a slap from the executioner...`are you insulting his majesty’s judgement?’ the lead executioner who slapped me under full public glare asked. `Now! Make good use of this opportunity or I shall take it away’, he added. I turned back to the crowd, his fingerprints on my face visible from almost a mile away. Looking straight at my sons within the crowd, I hastily concluded `Okegbenle and Ogedemgbe, Take care of your mother for me.’ As the noose was put around my neck, sadness beclouded my heart and even the shining sun smiling in the sky couldn’t brighten my mood. A familiar feeling came over me as the stone was pushed away. All the air rushed out of my lungs as I tried to inhale, my ribcage started to vibrate, the cells in my body called out for air and seeing none started to stiffen, my body stiffened, becoming rigid as my life was being snuffed out of me. At that moment the second between life and death, I realized I wanted to stay alive, prove them wrong, prove all of them wrong. Just before I choked completely I felt darkness descending upon me and thought just as it took over; `death was sudden’. Then all was quiet. ..............................................................................................................................................
So you finally break out of your reverie...
Who are you? I asked in fright, sitting up and taking in my surroundings at the same time. `A messenger from the gods’, the voice carried through to me again but I couldn't trace its source. `And what message do you bring?’ I screamed, frightened by the voice that sounded from all around me at once. This was coupled with the fact that I was in a dark forest with low visibility and shadows everywhere. I recognized this place to be the evil forest my grandfather emphasized so much about in his stories about his hunting adventures to me and my brothers, back in the days when we were young. Back then this forest was feared, the bodies of those who died abominably were thrown here to decay and their spirits never found rest, rumour had it that they hovered around, looking for whom to devour. `Death!’ The voice carried back to me. `I’m dead already’ I thought, vividly remembering how I was killed, hanged by the neck, till I died. `YOU CAN’T KILL ME!’ I screamed `I’M DEAD ALREADY!’ `The dead do not feel fear’ the voice carried back to me as I was thrown backwards and hit my head against a tree `or pain’ the voice concluded. `You have something that isn’t yours with you and...’the voice turns normal as a man dressed in grey swathing robes steps out of the mist surrounding the area to my front, `I’m here to take it back.’ I crawled backwards, my head still oozing from the pain, thinking; perhaps I wasn’t dead but there was no logical explanation for that, truly the dead can’t feel pain. Maybe this was it, the last thing I remembered was being hanged and dead, now I’m not. It can only be a miracle, yes! This was it! I survived because I died; I died like every other warrior, and then woke up from the dead, just like before. Could it be a miracle from the gods or was it a grave mistake on their part that I didn’t die? Where I come from, miracles don’t occur twice. In fact, it can’t be a miracle, there’s nothing special about me. If I could survive this forest, maybe I could go back and explain, go back and tell them, ask the chief priest to confer with the gods and confirm my words, then afterwards plead with
them to let me die the right way, the way that befitted my status as a warrior; to die fighting for Leog, but what use was it with what this evil presence just said, he had come to correct it and would do so now unless... Wait tell me what it is? I muttered, you know...we...we can talk things over. `You’re supposed to be dead, I’m just here to ensure that’ he countered. SLAM! I was hit against another tree. If I didn’t do something fast, I was done for. He was surely using black magic, I thought to myself. Levitating me without touching me, this was advanced. Suddenly the basic training I received for that came to mind. I closed my eyes and concentrated as hard as I could on closing my mind. It was difficult but as soon as I opened them, I was in stealth mode. I saw him; he was standing, probably still searching for me with black magic. I chuckled softly to myself as I snuck up from behind him and quietly put my hands around his neck like I wanted to strangle him. `I should kill you now’, I whispered into his ears. `Do it...’ from all around me I felt the air stiffen`... if you can...’and it started to come inwards towards me, like it was trying to compress me into something smaller...THIS WASN’T BLACK MAGIC, my mind screamed, This was on another scale entirely! From my intense pain, I threw away my pride and begged him to stop. He was still intent on compressing me into nothingness, so I turned to screaming. `Let’s do this like men, at least let me have the privilege to die like one! Don’t hide behind the cover of black magic!’ I screamed. I also screamed many other incoherent words, using all the foul language in my repertoire. Surprisingly he suddenly stopped. I bent over double as I tried to inhale again. `Like men’ I heard him whisper as PLOM! His punch connected with my face. It felt like a log of wood was used to hit me on the face. The former pain or this, I definitely didn’t know which was better. Three more times he repeated this. I was no match for this monster clothed like a man and I knew it. He was going to kill me and have whatever it was he wanted. He didn’t even want to dialogue, didn’t tell me what he wanted, but there was no doubt about it, with the way he was going, it was clear that he could only want one thing; my life. There was no end to his pummelling. The only choice I had was to... I decided to play dead, I fell on the grass after his fifth punch and refused to move as he came closer and kicked me, he did so a couple more times and then thinking I was unconscious, turned his back on me and bent to remove a dagger he tied around his leg. This was my chance and I seized it quietly. As he fiddled with the cloth he used to tie the dagger, I picked up a log of wood lying next to me and WHAM! Hit him on the head with
it. I didn’t bother to wait to find out what happened next as those precious few seconds were what I needed to get away. I ran really fast, as fast as my pain abused body would let me, winding between trees and leaves that got in my way not minding even as my borrowed clothes got torn here and there by thorns as I struggled to keep abreast of whoever that was, just in case he was following me. Grandfather never mentioned anything like this in his stories, I thought as I ran, even in his most life threatening situations it always involved an animal, why was I so unlucky? Even an encounter with a two headed lion would have been better than this. As I ran blindly, not knowing where I was going, I stumbled into a little clearing and surprisingly! There he was; hanging between space and air. I turned back screaming in fright as I ran back the way I came but he was a few steps ahead of me again, floating above the earth. I knew the game was up as I looked into the black, slim, tall, and completely bald man’s eyes. It wasn’t also the normal colour for a man as it was grey. I wasn’t surprised as nothing about this man so far was normal. I wasn’t sure...maybe he wasn’t even a man. What are you? I whispered in fright. Suddenly the air around me thickened again and I felt the pressure beginning to wash over me. `Why do you fight so hard to keep a life you already lost?’ He asked as he descended to the earth in my front. `I...I just want to prove my innocence and prove them all wrong, I managed to answer from the slowly radiating pain I was going through. `Go ahead and do it’, I whispered `at least it’s what the gods want, isn’t it? At least it’s...it’s better than...than...a...cowardly...death’, I managed to say with much effort as my eyes watered and I clutched my throat, falling down and then rolling on the grass powerless as I moaned my death moans. And suddenly it stopped. `You’re just a victim’ he said with pity in his eyes. What do you mean? I asked not believing what just happened, next, he stretched out his hand towards me and said, `all that has been happening is not your fault, come with me, I can help you’. I stood up, bewildered, as the question I was afraid to ask escaped my lips; `what came over you?’ .............................................................................................................................................. `We the immortals are the servants of the gods, we remain in everlasting continuous debt to them’ he started. Why? I asked as pausing for rest, he explained to me who he was.
We owe our gift of immortality to them. Like the saying goes; with immortal gifts come immortal powers and immortal burdens. That still doesn’t explain why you were after me. Once in a hundred years, he said, the strongest, the smartest, the best of the best amongst mortals are gathered together both male and female and engage each other competitively until the gods convene and make a choice. A new immortal thus from the world of mortals is made. Over the years, most of those not selected, not wanting to go back to their respective homelands settled down together and bore children. Their children coming from the best of human stock available, were exceptional, none on the face of the earth could stand them. Even the gods noticed and acknowledged their strength and jointly decided not to look outside this newly forged clan for new immortals. After a while some of those who became immortals from that clan came back and had illicit affairs with women from the clan. The gods knew about it but decided to look the other way. This resulted in mortals exhibiting traits of immortals. Today the clan is filled with many of them. This time around, the mortal to be bestowed had been chosen. He was to be bestowed with the gift of immortality, to become the latest weapon of the gods, the newest pawn in their hands. But something went wrong. The process was interfered with. There was interference on a very large scale. Interference hadn’t occurred in thousands of years, there was widespread fear. As the prince of the immortals coupled with the fact that I’m the strongest they have, they sent me to clean you up. Me??? it’s not possible! I’ve always lived a normal life! I asked, commented and requested all at once, shocked at the way this was unfolding. It’s because the interference was traced back to you. We weren’t sure if you did it on your own or if you had outside help, understand! Understand that they were fears, fears that your interference with the process was the work of a fallen god, and so I came here prepared to fight someone that had perfect or near perfect control of his element, someone who would have a dozen or so formidable techniques in his arsenal but I come here and what do I see? A mere mortal who can’t even protect himself, who never knew of the existence of immortality in him or what it awakens within. A mere mortal that I could subdue with my eyes closed. `So that means...’I gasped! The truth finally dawned on me. How I survived the battle, how I survived the hanging, hmmmn.. it would be so much easier to prove, I thought. I would just go back and ask them to kill me again and see what happens few hours afterwards. I would be great, I would be a celebrated hero, a man to be feared, my name would ring a bell along the length and breadth of Africa, the indestructible Dimpka Diopa of Leog, I would never die...
We’re both mortal now...he said, his words bringing me back from my visions of grandeur to harsh reality. Yours gone as soon as the error was discovered and mine when they discover that I’ve failed to kill you. I was only sent here because even without immortality, the effects, what it awakens within could still make you a dangerous man, dangerous to the will of the gods, albeit short lived. The only effect it has had is stealing away my memory! I mumbled in disappointment. It was either I rectified the error or forfeit mine as well, he continued ignoring my comment. `So what do you intend we do now? Can the effects be taken away so that I can get back my memories?’ I asked, eager to get this conversation over with, leave this dangerous man’s presence and return to Leog. No! You’ll just have to learn to live without them. Also, you can’t do without me now, he answered. Says who? I threw back at him, my mind going through a hundred things at once, not wanting to understand what he was saying, hoping against hope that his words had more than one meaning, a second meaning suitable to my ends. `They will be after you’, he continued, ignoring my comment once more, `my overzealous younger brother, the mortal whose hope of attaining immortality you thwarted and in a worst case scenario the gods themselves, although they wouldn’t need to do that.’ Why? I asked, seething with anger at being roundly ignored and also at the strange way things were unravelling. ` It has never happened before. That is why they have us as their pawns; to do all the dirty jobs that godhood wouldn’t permit them to do. Besides even I subdued you quite easily. The best we can do now is try to live normal lives, go to a different place, start new lives, get new identities and never access those powers sleeping within us. That way they would never find us and we could live happily ever after, at least until death comes calling.’ He didn’t understand my question, didn’t know I meant `why?’ Referring to why I couldn’t go back home to Leog? But I was done with being ignored. Wait! Wait! I cut in loud enough to interrupt him, ` but I still don’t remember anything and I don’t understand what powers you keep referring to’. That makes it a whole lot easier then. He finally answered smiling. You don’t need to...the less you know, the better off you are. `But I want to...’
`Its’ not about what you want’ he cuts in, `it’s about what you need.’ Listen and stop ignoring me! I screamed, tired of the way he was skirting around my questions, apparently enjoying it and doing it with so much ease. You really want to know what I need? I spat at him in a voice loud enough to cause shudders, `I need to get away from you because I don’t trust you! You could always want your immortality back and use me to barter for it. I think I’d rather take my chances alone than with you and I’m not interested in your ideas of a new life’, I blasted, surprised that I could do that, knowing how dangerous he was. `You can walk out now if you want to, I’m not going to hold you back’ he answered calmly in a voice that showed he wasn’t moved. I was surprised, was he serious? I didn’t wait to find out as the fear of him and everything he just told me took over me completely and I ran away like a pursued antelope. After running for a while I stopped and looked over my back to ensure I wasn’t being followed. An immortal! To put in better words an undying man. That sounded more dangerous than anything I had ever heard of before, I thought, as I resumed running. .............................................................................................................................................. This forest was really big, I had been walking for hours on end and was no closer to getting out of it than when I started. I sat down to rest for a few minutes having convinced myself a few hours back that the weird man was serious about letting me go. As I stood up, I thought I saw something to my right, I looked and there was nothing. I continued walking and soon I saw the outline of grass in the far distance though I was still surrounded by trees. I ran, renewed energy at finally finding the forest’s exit flowing through my veins. I got out of the forest and was on the grass, running, raising my hands and feeling happy to feel the touch of the sun on my skin. Strange! The sun was shining brightly, high up in the sky and the warmth wasn’t reaching me. I squinted, I looked up into the sun but strangely enough I was unaffected by its brightness and then everything began to fade away, like I was waking up from a dream, everything peeled away. I found myself back in a thick dense portion of the forest as two people dropped from a tree in front of me; a man and a woman. `Looking for a way out of the here?’ A sultry voice emanating from a very beautiful, dark complexioned, spotless and supple woman asked me. `The only way out is your death’, the man who looked rugged, complete with a square head which had a depression in the middle like punched fufu answered. He had that look of one who had been in many battles. `I thought I had experienced enough abnormalities in one day’, I thought softly, `was today really my death day?’ I also wondered. Everyone I had met so far had been after my life in one way or the other and
now this. My eyes darted thru and fro, here and there looking for a good escape route. I wasn’t sure what they were capable of doing. Trying to put up a bold front, I formed a fist and shouted to them, `I’ve done nothing wrong to both of you!’ `YOU STOLE SOMETHING FROM ME!’ He shouted, his voice seething with rage. As soon as he said that, I knew he was the mortal whose hopes of immortality I thwarted. My mind time travelled back to what that bald man told me, he had said I would need him, but for what? I wondered. I couldn’t see what it was about these two people that I couldn’t handle on my own. Then suddenly my eyes widened in shock as his hands caught fire before my very eyes. Different things raced through my mind as I played through my options. Maybe...perhaps, I should have stayed with him after all. He might’ve been right when he said I would need him, how else could I fight these people? Would I keep running away from people like this for the rest of my life? The gods would certainly discover that he had failed to kill me and might send something more powerful after me, these were the thoughts that raced through my mind as fearing the very worst I asked; `Are you also making me dream this even while I am awake, standing here with you?’ SWOOOOSH! I felt the heat of fire as it burnt me, my garment caught fire and I screamed CHEI! CHEI! CHAI! And fell on the floor rolling in a bid to put out the fire. Finally I stopped and got up to a squatting position as my mind processed the information that the fire was real and wasn’t an illusion. I looked up and thought of nothing but escaping knowing there was no way I could fight against them and triumph, consoling myself with the words `there’s no harm in trying’. I jumped behind a tree as more fire followed me and I ran like a dog with its tail between its legs. This forest was really living up to its name, I thought. Though I didn’t know it then, my running was folly as I couldn’t differentiate between illusion and reality and before I knew it I was surrounded by fire and its blinding smoke. He came forth, dagger in hand and STAB! He pierced my shoulder screaming `DIE! YOU THIEVING RAT!’ `Not yet...’the voice that sounded as if it came from all around at once, I recognized it, it was that bald weirdo that tried to kill me earlier on. I turned my head, trying to locate where his voice was coming from, but the pain from the stab wound in my shoulder jolted me, reminding me that I was wounded and shouldn’t move too much. I fell down coughing, my eyes stung and watered from the effects of the fire and smoke which was rapidly spreading, it was choking me slowly. The square headed man meanwhile just stood frozen at my back like one immobilized, seeming unaffected by the raging fire. I reached out trying to grab something, anything to lend me support to get back on my feet, at the same time taking those same hands back to my eyes to rub at them as they hurt; watering and peppering at the same time. I was in this pathetic condition, my eyes watering uncontrollably when I spotted his silhouette, with a flick of his wrists, both the man and woman disappeared completely. I felt a pair of hands around me as he carried
me up, just before the fast encumbering flames caught my already blackened clothes. The last thing I remember before passing out was him hoisting me up on his shoulders and running through the fast catching flames surrounding us. .............................................................................................................................................. `I heard that fire was burning in the evil forest today’, the first woman said, balancing her water pot properly on her head. `It was true o! In fact I even saw the smoke coming out of it’. The second woman added. `They said that it occurred around the area Dimpka’s dead body was thrown’, she concluded, balancing her own pot on her head, with such skill that it’s obvious that she’s experienced in such arts. `It proves that he had a blackened heart as even the gods passed judgement on him instantly’, the first woman said again, turning as she used her free hand to steady the pot of water on her head as she moved towards the footpath. `The gods forbid that any son of mine turn out like him’, the second woman added again, as she took rapid steps to keep up pace with her friend on the bush path. `Hush! Hush! Keep quiet, there his wife comes’, the first woman warned quickly. They both kept quiet and greeted her jovially. They didn’t know how much of their conversation she had overheard, but alas she feels it’s not their fault, to her the one who is to be blamed is the coward she married. As she edges closer to the stream, she starts cursing; `Ha! Dimpka wherever you are now, may the wrath of the gods never leave you for bringing this much disgrace upon our family. You shall never know peace’ she cursed violently as her pot broke the surface of the water covered with ripples, caused by the women who just fetched. `Look at us now? The village’s laughing stock. May that fire that burned your body in that evil forest burn your soul along it, I curse the day I met you and sad be the day that I agreed to marry you. But I won’t give up. I’ll find another man to marry that will be a father to my sons and bring a smile to my face once again’, she consoled herself, tears streaming down her face as she balanced the pot on her head and headed towards the footpath that lead away from the stream. ............................................................................................................................................. I regained consciousness on dry ground, dry leaves surrounding me and the taste of soot and smoke in my mouth. I tried to stand up and ended up in a rapid coughing fit. `Here let me help you’, he said and helped me to a sitting position; I leaned my back on a tree trying to inhale fresh air into my lungs.
`That was the mortal whose immortality process you interfered with.’ He said like one who was passing an ordinary comment. `His hands caught fire and didn’t burn’ I whispered back. `So would you reconsider now and take your chances with me? This people are not average normal people you can fight or hide from’ he responded from where he sat cross legged, looking straight into my eyes. `I’ve got no choice now or do I?’ I wheezed, turning my face away from his icy cold stare, `but I still don’t trust you and as soon as I’m fit, I hope you get out of my life and stay out’. `Well...well, you’re quite a character aren’t you?’ He said and smiled. `You don’t know me, you just wait till...’`you’re bleeding’ he cuts in, as he hurriedly stood up from where he sat opposite me, and with two strides was where I sat, rested against the tree’s trunk, `you’ve lost a lot of blood. Keep still!’ He ordered just as I was about to say something. I obeyed as he examined my shoulder. I have to tend to your wound now he said’ bending down as he put his hands on my shoulder, separating the threads of clothes matted with blood from the wound with his fingers, as he tried to expose it and clean it up. Aaaaaaaaaarrgh! I screamed as he poured some liquid he brought out of his robes on it and soon after I passed out again. ..............................................................................................................................................
I felt the wetness on my back as the raindrops pelted the ground. It was a moonless night, my body felt exhausted and my shoulder sore, from all the walking we had been doing in the last eight days. We bypassed the soldier on night watch but not without thorough scrutiny. I could have sworn that one of them squeezed my manhood in his so called scrutiny, but I was too tired to care. We lodged that night in an inn that reeked of gin and liquor, drunk men littered everywhere. As soon we entered our hut for the night, I fell on the bed and blacked out, not even caring to make room for my travelling companion. The next morning I woke up to the smell of fried fish wafting through my nose, I opened my eyes and started, scared until I remembered where I was and how I got there few seconds later. As I stood up to stretch my legs and arms, Bebe (I learnt his name during the three days we travelled together, surprisingly he already knew mine) entered the room and handed me a chewing stick. I went out to clean myself afterwards and as soon as I got back, he had hot steaming koko and cosie waiting for me. It felt so good to taste something familiar and hot again after about one week of living in the wild, feeding on fruits and bush meat. He asked me to eat up fast and get dressed for we had a long day ahead. Fresh clothes were neatly laid out for me on the bamboo bed and surprised; I asked him where he got them from. He told me the less I knew, the better off I was, telling me that when I was with him, I should learn not to ask irrelevant questions. You mean unscrupulous questions I had added sarcastically to express my displeasure with his attitude. I finished up quickly and as soon as we stepped outside the inn compound, noise from everywhere attacked my ears. Everywhere I looked was busy. BUY GROUNDNUT! HORSE MANURE! APPLES! SWEET RIPE APPLES FOR SALE! Were some of the different shouts that rent the air. Different people kept performing various daredevil acts trying to earn some money. Elsewhere a blind man was singing and dancing to the beats of his lulu entertaining a small crowd. The sound of different musical instruments like the bata, kora, mbira, marimba and shekere littered the air forming into one big musical din that made your head go buzz. Hundreds of people littered the streets shoving and pushing to get to nowhere in particular. We were in Reog after all and we had lodged in the busiest part of the southern kingdom, Aswani. It was the trade nerve centre of the southern kingdom. Filled with people; day in, day out. We headed towards the famous Aswani market supposedly rumoured to be filled with thousands of stalls. We shoved and pushed our way through to an empty stall with a thatched roof. A dead antelope was placed on the table underneath it. As soon as we got there, I heard Bebe tell a man `thanks for keeping an eye on it’ and he replied `anytime
my man. This your new apprentice?’ `Apprentice for what?’ I wondered as my brain tried to process that startling piece of information but before it could find an answer, Bebe had replied `yes, yes, he is.’ Well he does look a bit rough on the edges but he’ll learn to do just fine, the man said again. `Atta boi! What’s your name?’ He turned to me and asked, before I could answer or make a smart comment, bebe had put a hand on my shoulder and squeezed my still sore injury so much that it was all I could do to keep from crying out loud. `Diopa’, he answered on my behalf, `actually he doesn’t talk much’, he added. `Can I have bush meat for ten cowries?’ A third voice, that of a woman suddenly interrupted. Bebe freed my shoulder and I inhaled deeply, glad to be rid of his touch. I bit my tongue to prevent myself from saying what was on my mind to him. Suddenly he passed a grimy, blood dripping portion of meat that looked downright irritating to the eye and said `Diopa, take this portion of meat, cut it into smaller pieces and pack it with this’ pointing to some broad leaves lying on the table. Throughout the whole day, I continued with this debasing form of work, in the midst of hundreds of voices chattering at once, trying my best to keep myself from puking. I was in a very busy market place, in a strange land I had never set foot to before, with a strange man I still couldn’t bring myself to trust. This I suppose, was my new life. .................................................................................................................................................... As the days ticked, the months wore away and the years rolled by and day by day I grew to like and become a part of my new life. I became quite the professional butcher, the bush meat specialist, I was called and very successful, I had become. Bebe, he was a great guy, those animals we butchered, he never let me in on how he caught them but by then I had learnt not to ask questions and I kept mute. For the first time in my life I felt fulfilled and I wasn’t going to let anything get in the way of that happiness I derived from being fulfilled, not even the fact that I lost my memory once and had once lived a different life. I gave up trying to recall old memories and would convince myself that I was happy the way I was. I and Bebe lived quite comfortably. Since moving out of the inn, we bought a stone hut with its own beautiful little garden and had lived there ever since. He never talked about his immortal life and I never bothered to ask. I made a decision to let the sleeping dogs lie. Despite this we jived together on every other normal thing and sayoooed together and I found him quite a pleasant companion and a good business partner. As time wore on we became rather close. We were happy men, taking in and enjoying a little bit of everything. We were living out our lives happily fulfilled and comfortable like good citizens of the south ought to do. ....................................................................................................................................................
About three years had passed since we settled in Reog, me and Bebe. News had been trickling in titbits concerning an ongoing war being waged by the kingdom to protect its sovereignty. I tried to keep abreast of the little information available concerning the war though I had left my past unknown life behind. From the little gossip I heard, the enemy were from a strange place called Xendu and they were yellow skinned men unlike us who were black skinned. Some said they fought against us because of our colour, others said the sight of life irritated them but all agreed on one thing; they were deadly and devastating in their attacks and methods leaving nothing but hopelessness, despair and destruction in their trail. `Don’t worry! Our soldiers are strong men who cannot fail us. We remain safe’, a man said one day as men were throwing the argument back and forth. I wanted to believe his words, I wanted them to be true but somewhere in my heart, doubt existed and thrived, because I remembered; they were the same people I was supposed to have died fighting, the ones who defeated Leog’s elite caste of warriors, Shivering from these cold thoughts, I offered a silent prayer to the gods that the fight end in the plains where the soldiers had been sent to confront them head on. Life was sweet just the way it was, I wanted no unnecessary hindrance to my new life. And then the bad news started to filter in, the men of Xendu were headed this way, the soldiers sent to confront them had fallen and the outer edges of the southern kingdom including the vassals had fallen as well. We all prayed and offered sacrifices to the gods on a daily basis that they never reach Aswani and then suddenly for weeks on end nothing was heard about them. Rumours flew that they had retreated, having suffered severe losses due to the terrain and weather. Some said they had no business with Reog, it was worthless to them, while most held the opinion that the gods had intervened at the last minute, in answer to the numerous prayers offered by the southerners, beseeching them to stop the invaders. I didn’t care which was right but either way, I was just thankful. .................................................................................................................................................... Cut it into seven parts...No problem I answered. CHA! SHA! CLAMP! CHA! Were the sounds my knife made as the meat was being cut to suit the lady’s request...SHA! my knife had landed the fifth time and had gone up and was making a slow descent back down, gathering speed as it fell when suddenly a man almost naked, blood running all over him rent the air with his scream, it was so loud that it was picked by my eardrum even though I was tired. RUN!! THE YELLOW MEN OF XENDU ARE HERE!!! My ears perked at this sudden piece of information and my heart jumped into my mouth for cover. IMPOSSIBLE! How did they do it? Those gates are forged with the strongest steel to be found in this part of the world, it’s hard to believe, what are those men? Beasts? Demons? And then I heard it, the shouts, the screams, the cries for blood, I abandoned everything; money, meat, customer and all, grabbed my butcher’s knife and turned, my mindset on getting to my hut. I had almost forgotten Bebe, but alas he was not to be found, try as much as I could, perhaps he
had gone to wherever it was he used to get those animals of his. Anyway, I had no time, I couldn’t wait for the yellow men to come and fall upon me and so I moved, joining the shouting, pushing and shoving until I fell down. I was trampled upon by many, only sheer will kept me from bending to death’s will. That’s when it came, the rain of arrows, it was so sudden. People trampling upon me began to fall by my left and right. Some even fell right on top of me. Seizing this opportunity I shoved the dead bodies around me till I managed to squeeze through and got to my feet. People were all around me dead with arrows sticking out of their garments forming various crimson patches. Despite this, some still refused to die, the stubborn ones running through the stalls even as arrows stuck out of their chests, they ran till they could run no more. Unharmed, but trampled upon and trying to gulp in air to fill in my lungs again, I ran like a blind mad man in the middle of a thinning crowd of dying men, but I didn’t care, I ran left and right in between dead villagers, dying men groaning, twisting and turning on the blood soaked ground, as my eyes sharpened and the most powerful instinct in man took over me completely; The survival instinct. As I ran, I moved westwards till I cleared past the crowd of scattered dead bodies and the market stalls. I kept running and soon I caught my first glimpse of a man of Xendu. He was yellow, wearing armour and standing in my way. I shoved him out of my way ensuring within those few seconds that my butcher’s knife gave him a parting kiss. I continued running, panting, gasping for breath, changing direction since it was obvious the area I lived must have been overrun by them. I now aimed to get into the forest where I could hide under the cover of trees. I felt sudden pain in my left leg just then; it toppled me and sent me rolling over the moist dark earth. I rolled to a stop and tried getting on my feet but that instant, the pain that radiated from my heel upwards prevented me from doing so. I shifted backwards trying to be a man, fighting the slowly engulfing pain but alas my body couldn’t just respond favourably. I was helpless and hopelessly watched the man I shoved attach a quiver to his bow, aiming it straight at my heart. My spirit refused to die and I struggled moving my body inch by inch until I at least found a support in form of a tree stump. He released the quiver and I knew it was hopeless, it was over, but my spirit didn’t accept that, rather preferring to fight to the very end. The rigorous training my body had gone through in my past life hadn’t faded completely into oblivion either as my body reacted voluntarily and my hand shot forward, as if it had a mind of its own, to deflect the arrow shot. Aaargh! I screamed as the pain coursed through my body. It had surely become weaker since I settled in Reog. I clutched my injured hand with my good one and tried to will the pain to go away, but it didn’t, it was persistent. Still bent over double with pain, I didn’t see him attach the next quiver to his bow, aim it at my head and release it. Swoosh! I heard something move at high speed graze my left ear, compounding the pain I felt. I itched to touch it but couldn’t, despite the fact that I knew it was bleeding. I looked up from my intense pain and could read the shocked look of surprise on his face. He couldn’t have missed by that far. He quickly reattached another quiver to take one more shot at me
but he never got it off successfully, for he was suddenly levitated off the ground and thrown backwards, slamming headfirst into a tree and fell down with a thump, dead. I looked and I saw him, he was standing there, calm as if nothing just happened. He walked up to the blood stained tree, checked the man to ensure he was dead and cut off a small branch, which he carried along with him as he walked up to me. He removed the quivers, snapping their heads cut and pulling it out of my body one at time causing me sudden bursts of pain. Through clenched teeth and gasping for breath after both arrows had been extracted from my hand and leg, I saw him tear a part of his garment. He used it to help me tie up my wounds and stopped the bleeding. I suffered unexplainable pain as this process took place. Satisfied with what he had done, he helped me up to my feet, giving me the branch to rest on and use as a support. Bebe then spoke his first words to me since he came. ` do you think you can you walk?’ he had asked. `I think so’, I mumbled in reply. `then let’s get out of here fast’ he added, assisting me to lean on him for support as we both walked hurriedly into the forest. .................................................................................................................................................... After a few hours, we finally paused to catch our breath and I thought about what happened and realised the yellow archer couldn’t have missed by that far. It dawned on me, he had saved my life the second time. He brought out a skin of water as I thanked him for saving my life. He looked at me oddly and replied `drink up; we still have a long way to go they will be here any moment from now.’ `Who are they?’ I asked, but as usual got no reply. He only helped me up and insisted we continue. We hadn’t walked more than five minutes when dozens of dark forms with wings flew over us. He immediately pulled me down with him, hushing me as we hid under the cover of the lush greenery, until they passed. `What are those?’ I asked, `just keep on walking’ he hissed. I looked back and the only thing I saw was black smoke from Reog wafting into the air. Suddenly it was spreading everywhere like mist. It kept coming closer and he kept pushing me further to increase my pace, uncaring about the pain I was going through. Some few minutes after, my body couldn’t take it anymore; I was injured plus hadn’t exercised my body like this in years. Groaning loudly I fell and collapsed, my sweat stained face kissing the sand. I lay there unable to move, helpless, breathing heavily. I could feel the heat of the smoke getting closer,` stand up!’ He shouted, `no way! I’d rather die than stand up and continue’, I thought to myself. There and then seeing that I had reached my limit he came and picked me up, doing the unbelievable. He picked me up and ascended into the sky with me in his arms and we flew...no rather we glided on air, outpacing the smoke. His movements were quick and suave; reminding me of the first time I met him. We didn’t come this far to die by njoli, he said. What is that? I asked weakly, my head clearing up a little. Black flames he answered. For the first time since I knew him, he answered a
question from me, but I was too weak to notice. `It consumes all in its path, immobilizing only the living. They are but the dregs of her power’. He continued. Pushing my extraordinary luck with him that moment, I thirsted for more answers. `Who is she?’ I asked in addition. He opened his mouth and was about to say something when suddenly thunder and lightning struck simultaneously, buzzing, coursing through our bodies. Weakness was forgotten in the mean time as I flailed and trashed in the air and the jolt coursed through my body. We both fell down from high up in the sky. Thump! I hit the ground landing on my right arm and rolled for a little distance before I was stopped by a tree. I felt overbearing pain as I tried to shift myself. I remembered hearing a crack as I hit the tree. I felt my right arm and discovered it was broken. Besides that, I was terribly bruised with small and medium sized red patches of my blood scattered all over my robe. `It’s been a while’ I heard a voice sneeringly say. With my good arm I managed to crawl towards the sound having heard Bebe reply `yes Timi, it has been a while.’ As soon as I got closer what I saw made me stop dead in my tracks. It was a man, a younger version of Bebe, broad shouldered and broad chested, tall...very tall wearing a shining silver armour made of material unlike none I had ever seen before, and the look in his eyes. He had the look of one who wasn’t afraid to kill plus they were an unnatural colour. Also, within my scope of vision stood he. It was him and yet it wasn’t him. Gone was the man I sayooed with, gone was the man I jived with, gone was the man I lived with, gone was the man I knew, for there he stood, the exact replica of the day I met him. He stood and stared back at the other man like one who knew what death was all about, as grey mist swirled all around him and held a presence so mysterious unlike any I had ever seen before. Even I was scared of him now. `You’re still as soft and stupid as ever...elder brother’ the man bebe referred to as Timi commented. `I won’t take insults from you Timikuku!’ He thundered. `Well! I’ll just state my business fast. I don’t have time to waste either. I’m here to clean up your mess and clean you up as well’, the man called Timi said with a chuckle. So I’ll just get started already. Lightening was beginning to cackle in his fingertips and the atmosphere was tensed. I felt fear welling up within me. Fear of what this people were and what they could wreak upon a being as insignificant as me. I started crawling back the way I came quickly finding renewed strength from the fear within me. CRACK! CRACK! CRACK! I heard as I crawled and glancing sideways I saw the silhouette of Bebe being guarded by two trees which it seemed within the few moments I had used to crawl back one step had shifted places to deflect the lightening. Suddenly his brother was at his back; he turned and was just in time to counter the deadly lightening infused blow, mid air with his hands; making use of some of that grey mist that surrounded it. Then using it like a force field, he blasted the lightening cackling around his brother’s fist backwards. Just then his brother Timi released his clenched up fist and turned the lightening he must have
kept in it for that very purpose, at the nick of the second, into a deadly blast which pushed Bebe backwards. I stopped crawling and watched in wonderment as the two beings not of this world racked it out. `Has living among mortals turned you into a sissy?’ He sneered, walking towards bebe who lay writhing on the floor, moaning, his hands on his face. With unbelievable rage comparable only to that of a female lion, Bebe got up, following the gesture of his hands, the grey mist pushed his brother backwards, not pausing until he smashed headfirst into a tree. Even then he continued gesturing, ensuring Timi smashed through seven trees. Timi fell down, crumpled but stood up almost immediately twisting his head sideways, left and right, his bones making a loud cracking noise as he did so. `That was an old woman’s touch’, he said and SWOOSH! With a flourish he was gone. I saw lightening come from three directions, headed straight at bebe but three trees were there waiting, their roots still dripping with dark loamy soil filled with moisture, what happened next happened so fast that I couldn’t see it. I just heard a loud crack, saw wood splinters flying everywhere then an explosion followed half a second later. I ducked and married the ground as wood splinters and trees flew everywhere and all the leaves within that radius turned to dust. I raised my head up again as the dust smoke cleared. I looked around me; I was trembling in my skin now, how far could I possibly run even if I tried to? I tried calculating, at the same time processing the information that I just narrowly escaped being killed. I could have been crushed as tree trunks lay strewn, everywhere around me. Even in this state you prioritize the rats life? I can see a particular area that seems not touched. As the dust cleared I saw him, the man Bebe called Timi, his brother, on top of him, his hands on his throat. Bebe looked rough and haggard underneath him, like a helpless old man. He coughed blood, closed his eyes and then rasped `you leave me no choice.’ Suddenly everything around them started to vibrate, even the ground on which I lay vibrated too. I watched the air around the both of them condense, the particles around them swirled slowly, moving upwards as if the laws of gravity had changed. The vibrations stopped the instant he opened his eyes. From where I cowered I could see their colour, it blinked like a torch and yet it was dull, it was grey. Then he was there, under Timi’s grasp and he wasn’t. Timi disappears too and they re‐appear metres away from the spot they were before, this time with the situations reversed. I breathed a sigh of relief. Bebe was on top this time around and Timi trashed beneath him. And then I heard a voice whisper in my ear, `Escape’. Why would he tell me that when it was obvious he was winning? I wondered. Too late, as that exact moment, thunder struck and the whole ground shook. I looked up and behold their positions had changed again. Timi stood, lightening energy cackling all around him, his skin had turned white and all the hair on his body including the one on his head stood up, on end, and his eyes, they were blazing white hot. Bebe stood a good distance away, having jumped backwards suddenly, staring at his hands as if they had been scorched.
I’ve had enough... I told myself and struggled. With the help of a fallen tree trunk close to me, I got to my feet, my broken arm hanging limply. WHAT DO YOU THINK BEBE? he roared, THAT I WILL COME AFTER THE IMMORTAL SPIRIT WITHOUT BEING PREPEARED? No MORTAL SEES MY TRUE FORM AND LIVES AFTER IT...just like before, he whistled softly, when none who felt your touch...The immortal spirits touch, feels anything afterwards. I struggled, limping between intertwining plants without leaves but his voice still carried. `EVEN WITH YOUR IMMORTALITY TAKEN, THERE ARE FEW WHO CAN STAND UP TO YOU! He thundered, BUT I...I who has gone farther than any other on this plane of existence in the quest for power, I, soon to be the fourth prince, bring the judgement of the gods upon you; the strongest’. His voice went low again. `Even the gods admitted that much but you were never stronger than the first prince. Now behold what made him eclipse every other immortal! Handed down by the gods themselves to me, for use in carrying out their judgement upon you. I was running now even with my bad leg. I wasn’t even watching where I was going, I just wanted to get as far away as possible from them. His voice was getting louder and I knew whatever was coming, it wasn’t going to be good. ELEMENTAL TAKE OVER! ! ! HE SCREAMED, although I wasn’t far enough, my curiosity got the better of me and I turned, what I saw pushed me harder than the wind howling at its peak. He was lightning and thunder fused together, a large mass of white cackling current with human eyes. `You’re mortal now Bebe’ I heard him say before he screamed `ARA SAAAAAN!!!’ Even from where I stood, I felt the effect, for I went soaring into the air like a hundred feet, feeling the brashness of the current on my skin just the way one feels heat from fire. The whole mass must have enveloped Bebe for he was screaming, screaming out in serious pain and agony. The sound was painful to the ears, it was like a thousand squirrels gnashing at a thousand nuts. I thought my ears would burst, and then it stopped. I turned around just in time to see his body falling from the sky a charred rumpled heap. Before it reached the trees it scattered into ashes. At that instant all the greenery in a radius of ten miles including the trees cracked into dust. Tears streaked my cheeks as I ran for dear life, Bebe had paid the ultimate price for my freedom. As I ran I saw a single bolt drop from the sky, it dropped right in front of me and materialized into Timi. A very weak Timi, he could barely stand. He blocked my path and walked towards me as I edged backwards unknowingly, towards the cliffs edge. I could hear the river flowing underneath as he said with a painfully forced laugh `So your guardian spirit finally dissipates eh? I can finally get around to swatting you and claim what is rightfully mine’. My eyes darted back and forth looking for the quickest escape route. You're trapped like a fly, and no matter where you run to, you're in my web. I knew there was no way out of this, but I’d rather take my chances and die eaten up by piranhas in the river below than grant him the joy of killing me. `Bebe was a fool’ he said, `who didn’t...’ I didn’t allow him complete the statement as that moment I jumped off the cliff, ignoring protestations from my beat up body, hearing the wind whistle in my ear, letting adrenaline pump me into freedom, freedom from the cares of this world. 2 seconds later I broke
surface as powerful surges coursed through my body and I was enveloped by a wet blackness.
HUSH! Hush! HUSH! He’s awake! My whole body felt numb and it hurt so much that I wanted to scream but only a moan escaped my throat. I tried to sit up and take in my surroundings but my body refused to budge. All I could see was darkness and a little lighted portion where an oil lamp illuminated the room. Suddenly the kind face of an old man leaned over me, blocking my entire scope of vision. `You haven’t fully healed yet, you need to rest some more’, he said and slowly I slipped back into unconsciousness. When I opened my eyes again it was assaulted by bright light. It was daytime. I looked to my left and saw the same kind old face sitting on a stool. `So you're finally awake’, he commented. `You ought to have woken up two days earlier. Do you feel hungry?’ He also asked. Who...are...u? I managed to stutter. Tell...me...now...o...r...or...else. `You’ll do what?’ He sneered. `Kill me? You're in no condition to make threats’, he added. Suddenly I remembered what happened, me and bebe fleeing, the fight, bebes death, and my own self supposed chosen death at the hands of piranhas and I asked in a whisper `so why did you save me?’ `Patience’, he replied, `all in due time, get well first’. He then stood up and took his leave as I slipped back into another deep sleep. After that day, he never came back, rather an old nurse came in his stead to give me medication and food, three times daily. I was also occasionally taken out for walks, the walks getting more frequent as I got better. She was friendly but refused to answer any
of the questions I threw at her, so I gave up trying to coax answers out of her. I also saw the kind old man sometimes sitting under a tree meditating; most times when I passed he would nod at me. I contemplated running away, not once, not twice, not thrice but abandoned the idea because the prospect looked bleak and after all, they saved my life. As the days passed and the weeks rolled by, I grew tired of just waking, eating, sleeping and taking occasional walks within the compound to exercise my limbs. I was beginning to get impatient with this people, whoever they were, I didn’t care anymore. They couldn’t just keep me indoors like a domestic animal, things weren’t done that way and their attitude...it was seriously pissing. They way they looked at me; they all looked at me like I was some sort of lesser being making it obvious they knew something that I didn’t. Things surely couldn’t continue like this and so I made a resolution that the next time I saw the old man, I had to tell him something, shake him and rough him up a little. I needed to know what he knew, what he took so much pains to hide from me by caging me up like his pet, I wanted to know more. My chance came sooner than I expected. On one of those days I was allowed out to stretch my legs, I saw the old man under the tree, meditating again. I let my strolling take me towards his zones and he nodded at me as usual from afar, but this time I didn’t continue on the normal route, rather I diverged towards him increasing my pace. Then suddenly two dogs I had never noticed before but who obviously hung around guarding him stood up and started heading towards me as I got closer. From a trot I broke into a jog, the dogs imitated me still heading towards my direction. Then I started running and they started running too. It was a race of wits this time around. As I ran, they ran and still running, we got closer to each other. As their outline became clear, they gnarled and fear struck my heart, but pulling on a reserve I knew not existed, I gnarled back at them, also showing them my teeth. Then still moving at that speed I made a decision at the spur of the moment. As I got closer; 5 meters, 4 meters, 3 meters, 2 meters, 1 metre and I jumped, but it wasn’t a real jump, it was a feint and I ducked immediately after. Alas they copied me too and jumped but rather than the head on collision that was meant to happen in the air, they sailed right over me, implementing the feint a few seconds late, ducking as they sailed, whimpering like puppies as their speed carried them a few hundred feet in the air before they landed. As they sailed over me they looked strangely translucent and ethereal and that cold fear I felt when they gnarled struck my heart again, but no time for reminiscing as I seized my opening and continued towards the old man in full speed. As soon as I got to him, I jacked him up by his clothes. `What was that? Who are you? Why are you keeping me locked up like a dog? Where am I?’ where a few of the questions I threw at him in quick succession. Fool...I heard him mutter under his breath and suddenly that cold fear I felt when the dogs gnarled came back stronger, it filled my whole body and overwhelmed me, and then my own fears joined it. All the fears came alive, playing right before my eyes. It
filled my mind to the bursting point. Instantly my shaking hands freed his clothes immediately to clutch my painfully throbbing head, as overcome by fear I closed my eyes wide shut, trying unsuccessfully to close out my mind from all of it. I fell to the ground screaming and rolling and just before I passed out, I heard him murmur `I never should have brought you here if he hadn’t asked me to...’ I woke up in that same hut, on that same bed but with a different feeling. I woke up feeling drowsy but shook my head to clear the effects. I tried to sit up only to discover I was strapped down. Breathe in... breathe out... I told myself forcing myself to calm down enough to think. Finding no other plausible solution, I decided to force myself free of the ropes which strapped me down to the bed. Hurting myself in the process, I screamed out from the pain I was causing myself. `Take it easy’, the old woman said. I looked up and saw her silhouette illuminated against the door. `The more you struggle the tighter it becomes.’ She added. `What are you doing with me? What do you want with me?’ I screamed, shaking the bed violently as the ropes tore deeper into my skin. You're so noisy! She said. She didn’t turn back, just ignored my muffled shouts and walked right out of the room. After she left, I kept shouting and then realising the futility of my position, I calmed down enough to fall asleep. I was rudely interrupted from my sleep as the ropes used to bind me were roughly removed. Get up! The man who removed it ordered, and as soon as I did, the pain hit me like a gale wind, my whole body was sore from where the ropes had torn into my flesh. The master wants to see you, follow me, he said. I followed him and we got outside the hut and walked for about five minutes till we got to the master’s hut. He then stood outside and motioned me to go in. I did and when I entered, there was a fire burning brightly in the middle of the hut. The master was sitting on the other side of the fire. `Sit’ he said and obediently, like a trained dog, I sat on the floor opposite him cross legged. `So I see you were stubborn and refused to listen to Nadia’ he said. I kept mute, having recognized him as the man from my earlier encounter that same day. The man surrounded by fears. `I heard you’ve been clamouring for answers since our little encounter. I thought you were joking, perhaps playing a little boy’s prank’. He was an old man, so I guess he was allowed to call me a kid, I thought to myself as I bit my lips to prevent myself from retorting with a smart comment. `Well, I think I have something for you.’
`I don’t want anything from you but answers’, I answered through clenched teeth. `whatever answers you seek are beyond me’, he said, `you alone can find them. I can’t help you but I can point you in the right direction towards the answers that you seek’. He added. So why did you say you had something for me then? I asked, trying my best to hide the anger and frustration in my voice. `Enough!’ He ordered. `You shall say nothing more unless what I ask of you. You’re too small for me to take rubbish from. What I have for you is a package from Bebe(my ears perked up immediately at the mention of his name). A package you must take to Immortalia to get all the answers you seek. Will you take it or not? And what happens if I don’t go? I asked `You forfeit the package’ he said as he glared at me, `and by tomorrow latest you’ll be escorted out of here to the nearest human settlement. From there, you’re on your own.’ I will go! I said, a ring of determination in my voice, having weighed my options and deciding that since I didn’t know what phantom lurked in the shadows, awaiting news of my return to spring to action, I would be better off knowing the truth of the matter...the root of the matter. That way I figured I would be properly armed to protect myself, knowing why it was that they wanted my life and what happened to me, knowing what secret Bebe had taken painful pains to hide from me, up until now. `You may take your leave’, he said. `Tomorrow you shall depart with companions to Immortalia, and beware! You mustn’t open the package until you get there’ He added standing up to withdraw into his inner hut. Please wait! I shouted after him and surprisingly he halted. `The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step’, I began. All this while, all these years, I’ve been kept in the dark following the footsteps of the one who knew the way. Now that he’s gone I feel like any step I take will be the wrong step. I don’t even know where I am, who I am or who you are. I can’t differentiate between friends or enemies. I don’t know what’s real or unreal again and... You feel like a puppet? He cuts in. `Yes’ I said confirming what he said, what I was about to say. He kept quiet for a few seconds which felt like hours to me before he said; `make no mistakes, consider me not a friend’ (my eyeballs widened) `I’m only doing what I’m doing because Bebe asked me to’. And then he was gone. As I stepped outside the hut, it suddenly started making sense to me, everything he said, it started piecing together in my brain, the only thing I never fathomed was Bebe’s
relationship with that old man. But to think that Bebe would plan for a situation like this even after his death, it means he must have planned to die...no...No. He must have known he was going to die. Tears streaked down my cheeks as I remembered him. I must...I...must get to Immortalia and decipher what Bebe wanted me to. It was the least I could do to honour his memory, the memory of one who died in my stead. I was escorted back to my room and that night, that very night I slept like a new born babe. The next morning, my sleep was rudely interrupted by the cold feel of water splashed on my face. ` Wake up!’ The guard shouted, `the master wants you’. The guards here weren’t in the least a bit friendly, I forgot. I woke up and with my hands wiped off what I could of the water dripping from my face. I dressed, tying a loin cloth around myself and went out to meet the master. The next person I saw almost shocked me right out of my skin. There she was, standing right next to the master, the evil beauty that colluded with the fireman years ago to take my life. As I arrived I could see her eyeballs looking like they wanted to jump out of their sockets, she clearly had not expected to see me here either. `These are your companions’ the master said, pointing to her and another man with strange piercings in both his ears. They shall be going all the way with you to Immortalia. `I think it’s better we get started master’ the guy with the strange piercings in his ears said, ` it’s still a long journey from here.’ So saying, he bowed to the master and I followed suit. He turned, walking into the darkness, I followed keeping in his wake and she followed me behind my back, careful to keep a safe distance between us. It wasn’t until two hours into the journey when we paused for a brief break in the forest that any one said a word. Even then it was me and what I asked for was water to quench my thirst. The ear piercings guy brought out an animal skin flask from a sac he carried on his back and gave it to me. I took a long and satisfying drink from it and gave it back to him. Then I turned and looked at the woman, she was eyeballing me, in fact she had been eyeballing me throughout the whole journey. Even now she said `what?’ in a very hostile voice. I turned to the piercings guy and told him `if we’re travelling together I would feel safer if we knew each other’s names considering the fact that she’s tried to kill me before’. `Immediately I saw you, I knew it was you’ she burst out, `the one who stole Tafa’s immortality. You deserve nothing better than death!’ She said and spat at me. I cleaned off the spit with the back of my hands and told her `woman, watch your tongue’. Clenching my fists, I continued ` any more word from you and I’ll beat you to pulp’. `What can you do?’ she shouted placing her arms akimbo. `Can you even protect yourself?’ She added insultively. This was too much, I couldn’t take it any longer. I had to teach her a lesson or two. I stood up impulsively and headed for her, giving her two hot slaps in quick succession. Both of you stop it! I blinked again and opened my eyes. Instead of holding the offensive, insultive woman, I was clutching nothing. I turned around instantly remembering how she manipulated reality and saw the piercings guy holding the
woman’s hand in which she held a big log of wood that would have hit me had it not been for he who was holding her back. `No one is going to hit or break anyone’s head’, he said, `at least not until I say so’. `Just who do you think you are?’ She hissed, still struggling against his vice like grip to get at me. `I’m Gboks, an ordained guide by the master. It’s useless’, he said to her. `I know what you’re thinking. It will be good for you to know that I’ve been instructed by the master to kill if you refuse to cooperate with me or if he dies due to your negligence. It’ll be better if you play your part well’. He released her from his firm hold and she dropped the log of wood, hissed again and walked off on her own. `Won’t you go after her?’ I asked him. `Don’t worry, she’ll come back, she knows the master is not a man to be taken lightly’ he replied me. In the days that followed, I learnt more about my companions at an alarming rate and the more I grew to like the guard Gboks for his protective attitude over me, the more I grew to hate that woman Tripoli for her brash and sassy attitude towards me and him. Sometimes, I wondered why she had to come along; Gboks would have been enough to protect me. I even asked Gboks what her relevance was and he told me that the master thought she was relevant enough to come along. `That’ he said, `is enough’. I also came to discover that Gboks was gifted with hearing as much as Tripoli was gifted with illusions. They were both from the tribe Tedape, he had told me. They were the gods chosen; the tribe from which immortals were made. I remembered vividly, Bebe had mentioned them to me the first time we met; mortals exhibiting immortal power traits. I pondered again over what sort of relationship Bebe had with that old man, the master that would make him willing to go such extreme miles as to have his people protect me. After about a week of travelling in the wild without encountering anyone but wild animals which we killed for their meat, one evening, Gboks finally told us that we were there. .............................................................................................................................................. You know that feeling a monkey gets when he sees a giant sized fresh Banana that he knows he can never get enough of and he licks his lips, salivating and wishing the banana would multiply, etching the picture into his mind forever? That was the feeling I had as I beheld the beauty of the mountain I was looking at. It was beautiful, and yes! Also very massive. `We have to climb it’, he said. `What!’ I exclaimed as his words forcefully brought me back to the earth, after travelling on the wings of the mountain’s beauty for a couple of minutes. We have to start before daybreak to get a head start; we have all night to rest and prepare. This wasn’t looking so good to me. I wore a gloomy look as I walked away into the woods to reflect within. I felt certain I had never climbed a hill in my life, not to talk about a mountain but there was no choice now, we had travelled this far already. There was no point turning back now.
`There’s no way I’m going up that mountain with you!’ I heard Tripoli screaming. `You have no choice, it’s the master’s will that we go all the way with him’, he replied coolly. `Thunder strike the master’ she screamed! `He isn’t here. Why can’t the almighty master come and take him up the mountain himself?’ GBAM! I heard. I stood up and headed back, towards the two of them. `Don’t you ever insult the master again in front of me you shameless whore’ he said.` I tolerate you and your excesses only because the master thought you’d be relevant, nothing more. If you feel so strongly about waiting behind then wait behind, I’ll be kind enough to pick up your carcass on our way back’, He added and walked away angrily as I stepped back into the clearing. He passed by me, brushing shoulders with me and didn’t say a word. I understood; he needed to reflect within himself. I looked up and saw her clutching her face, looking dazed from that hot slap. I remembered I had wanted to do the same to her before, but seeing the look on her face now, I knew I would have felt bad afterwards. `I’m sorry’ I said, not knowing what else to say to her. She didn’t answer; she turned on her heels and stalked off too, leaving only me in our camp for the night. The next morning, I woke up sweating all over, I had a bad dream. I stood up, leaving both of them, they were still snoring. Gboks opened his eyes as I stood, squinted at me and closed them back, satisfied I wasn’t an intruder. I walked a little distance away from the both of them and pondered the dream that I had, it was that same dream, the one in which people’s heads were being cut off. As I pondered, I didn’t know when I started crying. The tears were just falling down my cheeks, and I did nothing to stop them. It was like I was crying away the sorrows that I didn’t know of, sorrows that I didn’t remember, but were there. `It’s time to go’ she said. `What?’ I asked turning to look at her with my tear stained eyes. `I said Gboks said it’s time for us to go’, she repeated harshly. .............................................................................................................................................. It was mid afternoon and the sun was reflecting off the tiny rivulets of sweat on our foreheads, we were drenched in sweat like fishes dipped into the ocean and we were still climbing. My limbs were sore from all the climbing we had been doing since daybreak and my muscles were strained, but sheer will kept me on and my hands didn’t let go of the mountain holes as my legs moved simultaneously with it. The last skin of water Gboks had passed around had helped a lot, but it felt like all of it had evaporated from my body due to this burning sun. If anyone could see us now, I thought, laughing softly to myself, we’d look like three climbing insects. But that was the problem, no one could. I didn’t even know what they would be seeing now if they looked up at the mountain. It was probably what she wanted them to see. She was quiet during this journey than she usually was about anything else. Gboks had boxed her into a corner for this one. I remembered what he told her at the foot of this mountain “if you decide not
to help, you’re the one who stands the risk of dying on this climb. Don’t forget I have my ears and I’m capable of moving me and him to safety in case anything happens. Even if they shoot arrows, you will be the one affected because I’m not mincing words; I’m telling you that I’ll leave you to your own devices. Don’t forget who you’ll be dealing with. In a worst case scenario, we all die. I know you don’t want that to happen but then, it’s your choice.” She had been left with no choice but to help us. She was so quiet, perhaps making illusions required so much concentration. Another ten minutes had passed. Gboks was the one climbing, leading our pack, she was in the middle and I brought up the rear. I could hear her breathing heavily as she climbed above me. Then suddenly she fell, HELP! She screamed as she fell. I caught her just in time before she tumbled below, as some loose stones fell to the ground below, almost losing my hold on the mountain in the process. By the gods, she weighed! With one hand and two legs hooking me to the mountain I used my one free hand with which I caught her to haul her up. I pulled her till she could hold onto my body, so doing I released my hand which was holding her and moved it back to the mountain to maintain a firmer grip as she used my body like a hold and tried to climb back to her place. `What’s happening to you?’ I asked her, as she struggled to maintain a balance and moved to take her place ahead of me. `It’s none of your business’, she barely managed to whisper. `Gboks!’ I shouted, still holding on to her, afraid she might fall again. Even I doubted if I had the strength to pull her up again if she fell a second time. `We need a break!’ I added. `Just climb a little bit more, there’s a ledge I can see from here on which we can rest’, he replied. ............................................................................................................................................. We summited the mountain the evening of that day, but albeit like tired frogs who had been swimming against ocean currents all day. As soon as Gboks pulled me up I drank some water and collapsed on some lush greenery I saw nearby. I stayed like that for the next one hour, tired and unable to move until Gboks brought some fruits, bending down, he put one close to my mouth. I sucked on that pawpaw like a baby coyote. Regaining a little strength but still weak and tired, I fell asleep. I was in that field again and heads were being cut off, blood stains everywhere and just as a sword was pierced into me again and again and I screamed in pain, I woke up. There was Gboks by my side tapping me continuously to wake up. I turned as the world of dreams faded away and saw the look of alarm on his face. `What happened? I was trying to wake you up and you screamed’, Are you alright? He asked. `It was just a dream’ I responded, as I jumped to my feet, renewed strength at having being rested flowing into my veins. I looked around and saw it was night. I looked at Gboks and like one who read my thoughts, he responded `it’s better we go in and out unnoticed’. `Where’s she?’
I asked referring to Tripoli. `Here’ she answered from my back. I couldn’t sleep properly, she added with a note of sarcasm in her voice. `We’re all set then’, Gboks said. `This is the final stage of our journey and so I needn’t ask that we all be careful and stick close to each other. I’ll take the lead, Tripoli follow behind me and you Dimpka will bring up the rear’. `Where are we going?’ I asked. `Inside the mountain’ he responded. .............................................................................................................................................. It was like we were inside the ground only that we were not. We were within a mountain. Gboks had put his ears to the ground when we were on top of the mountain and then suddenly started jumping up and down like a mad monkey who just had a bunch of bananas drop from the sky for him, until the ground gave way, caved in and he fell in. I thought he was dead or something had happened to him and then I heard his voice calling out to Tripoli to quit wasting time and jump in after him. She looked at me uncertain about how to react and I nodded. She moved towards the hole and jumped in. Like a minute after I heard Gboks voice calling out to me to quit stalling. I moved towards the hole, closed my eyes and jumped in. I landed roughly on my foot, and tried to feel around me. `We’re in a tunnel’ Gboks said. `stop feeling around, you’re making noise. Just follow. Follow the sounds of our movement’ he added. I bent down and started crawling following the sounds of movement I heard. I felt compressed as I crawled and my head hit the top of the dark stony tunnel. The air inside felt fresh like there was some sort of opening that let in air but otherwise it felt cold, very dark and round. The roundness and feel of the stone tunnel felt very smooth, smoother than any workmanship of the sort that I had ever encountered in my life. . After five minutes of crawling I heard Gboks voice from the impenetrable darkness in my front. `I can see an opening, I’m going to take it’ he said. My eyes were beginning to get used to the darkness and I could see tripoli’s sexy outline ahead of me. Plop! And suddenly she disappeared. I crawled a bit more and saw the opening. I tried to twist and turn to enable me drop into the hole legs first, but after squishing and squirming saw it was impossible and so dropped head first. I would have hit the floor with my head but used my hand to guard it, bruising my hands seriously in the process. `Are you ok?’ She asked as I slowly removed my hands from my face and got to my feet. `I think so’ I answered. Where’s Gboks? I asked. `I’m here’ he whispered. It was then that the feeling suddenly hit me. The fear that the master made me feel, only it was on a bigger scale. I looked around, we were at the top of a stairwell and as if alerted to our presence the torches were lighting themselves of their own will, fire was flying from torch to torch. Soon all the torches in the mountain were lighted giving the place an eerie look. Then in the middle stood pitch blackness. After all the steps which were carved in a spiral into the walls of the mountain stood the mountain’s floor, the bottom of the mountain and from it emanated a ghastly silvery glow. From where we stood we couldn’t see into it. The silvery glow hovered over the bottom like mist, shimmering as the light of the torches
reflected upon it every now and then. All in all it was a sight to strike fear into the heart of a dead man. I moved closer to Gboks. I looked at Tripoli and she was shaking, her legs looking wobbly. `I have heard tales about this place told before’, Gboks said in a whisper, `how the master imprisoned and alone as a child escaped from this place. But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine it would be this bad. The dread of this place could awaken a dead man from his sleep, or so I heard, but it’s even worse, it’s far worse than I heard’, he whispered in a trembling voice. `What is this place?’ I asked and in a voice shaken by fear he answered `Immortalia, the place where the spirit of immortals are laid to rest by the gods’. .................................................................................................................................................... So, then it means this is the dread of the gods I thought. It was only normal that it should strike fear into the hearts of mortals so. But I didn’t feel so much fear, at least not like him or Tripoli. My voice was still steady and strong and legs weren’t shaking. `Let’s climb down’ I said, filled with a sudden boldness and inspiration, turning to the stairwell and taking the lead. `Come on’, I said turning backwards a few steps down, still seeing both of them standing in the same spot. They came after me, at a pace so slow that even the snail would complain. We climbed down the stairwell one after the other, one step at a time. By the time we got to the bottom, I was feeling the exact way they felt when we stood at the top of the stairwell. My heart was filled with so much fear and the sudden boldness I felt before was totally gone. The bottom was filled with a darkness even the light of the torches couldn’t extinguish and now that we were down here, I felt the coldness of the mist. It was such that could have shattered the spirit and will of any man, anytime, anyday. I was beginning to feel despair tearing at my heart. Then in the midst of all the cold I felt warmth, some significant hotness was emanating from within my loincloth. `Don’t remove it you fool’ logical reasoning told me. `You’ll freeze to death’. I wanted to listen, but curiosity got the better of me and I removed it from my loincloth. It was the package from Bebe, from it, the warmth emanated. `Unloosen it’ Gboks hoarse whisper carried to me. I unloosened it from the cloth it was wrapped in and as soon as I was finished, the warmth of its light filled the entire area where the three of us stood, petrified by the cold. It was a map. A miniature golden map with a chain attached to it. Its light not only chased away the darkness from the area where we stood, it also chased away the cold. `It’s what kept you from feeling it the way we did up there... What you’re holding, what is it called?’ He asked in a whisper. `I don’t know’, I answered back. `What am I supposed to do?’ I asked him. `I don’t know’ he whispered back at me. `Didn’t the master tell you anything?’ I asked. `I don’t know’, he barely managed to whisper back. Then I heard a deep voice, it was a voice I recognised having spent years living with its owner. `Come forward alone. Passage is allowed for just one’. I tried to look into the translucent face of the ghost talking to me without feeling fear, but all I could see there was pain. `Follow me’ it said’. `What about them?’ I asked. `They’ll
be fine’ he said to me in his deep echoing voice. As I left, I could hear Tripoli muttering as she cowered in fear; `these immortals were not laid to rest, they’re living in torture, everlasting torture’ I followed him, as we weaved through the feathery mist, I saw so many faces but and held fast to the miniature map by the chain. It shone like a lantern and its light drove them away. `Free us!’ I heard as I weaved through the darkness and trees that grew intertwined together, just the way it was in the thick dense jungle. I used my left hand to sweep away the dirty creepers that swung in my face and with my right arm held up the chain like a lantern, trailing behind the silvery ghost. After a while we got to a corner and he stopped, pointing at crack in a tree. `Free me!’ he said. `Who are you?’ I asked realising that he wasn’t Bebe. `I said FREE ME!’ He screamed, his mouth expanding in the most horrid fashion I’ve ever seen, fangs gleaming and shining as his head expanded and contracted like elastic. I could swear my heart stopped beating for a second or two as I stepped backwards. The chain fell from my hand and I fell as the cold, fear and ghosts all tore at me at the same time. Blinded by fear and almost choking due to lack of air, the ghosts descended on me. I got on my knees, the uppermost thing in my mind being the miniature map. Just as I was about giving up and losing my sanity, my fingers clasped around it. I lifted it up and in blind fury swung it with so much force that the ghosts in my front scattered. The darkness lifted from my eyes and panting heavily I got on my feet as the cold feeling left me. I looked around, I was lost in the jungle on the mountain floor. I never imagined it could be this big. The ghost that led me astray was nowhere to be seen. I had followed it thinking it was bebe, but I was mistaken. I raised the chain in my front and walked out of that corner trying to find my way out. I could still see some ghosts hanging by some trees, holding it and looking at me with a pleading look in their eyes. I walked forward, not taking a sideway glance at any of them. I wondered what had made me come in the first place. What was I thinking, that I would find the answers I wanted? I was no closer to finding any answer than when I first began. I walked straight, following a narrow path until I got to a clearing. I was a mortal still and even with the miniature chain, I still felt fear. I looked over my head as I walked forward, afraid something might come out from the darkness and grab me. Darkness was everywhere and it penetrated everything. I moved forward in the clearing, amidst strange cries and hollering from ghosts, some of who had taken alluring feminine forms trying to lure me over to them. `I was never that kind of weak man’ I thought to myself ignoring the whistles and catcalls from the ghosts. I walked till I got to the edge. The mountain’s wall loomed like a big infinite fence, keeping the jungle in. I moved closer trembling and shaking, wondering what I had gotten myself into. On the walls were signs, Different signs and different drawings, and in the midst of all those drawings stood a crack, a crevice that was the exact shape of the miniature map I was holding. Hearing sighs, I looked back. The light from the miniature map wasn’t enough to hold them back any more. They were fighting against it. They couldn’t wait to get their fangs on me. They were coming closer. My heart stopped so many times within those few seconds only to resume pumping again. What had I
done? Why were they after me? I turned, walking backwards, edging towards the mountain wall with my backside, swinging the miniature chain in front of me like a sword. Stay back! I shouted in desperation. But they didn’t listen. They kept pouring, coming after each other like an army, different hoarse chants from them piercing the silence of the dark. Then I heard a shout different from theirs, piercing the air. It sounded like a real woman. I guessed instantly it was Tripoli. I never should have listened to that ghost, I knew. I heard her scream again, but there was nothing I could do, I was no better than a trapped chicken. I stopped swinging the miniature map as the cold hands of one of the ghosts closed upon my throat. I gurgled, seeing nothing but silvery whiteness, as the coldness of his touch spread from the point of contact down to my chest and downwards. I could hear my heart beating and my lungs trying desperately to inhale. I got on my knees, my legs unable to support my shaking and flailing body. As the cold crept to my arms, it slid down to my hands and just before it found my fingers, I felt another cervical crack and in a last minute hope of desperation slipped the miniature map into it, clasping it shut, just as the cold completely overwhelmed me and the other ghosts descended upon me in mindless glee. It was like sunlight filled the mountain, a gale wind blew all the ghosts on top of me away, and the golden light spread touching every tree and everything in the jungle and mountain before descending on me. I stood up, the fear had departed, the cold was gone and there I stood, the miniature chain glimmering upon my neck. There was no time to waste. I didn’t understand what just happened but I was sure of one thing, I didn’t want answers any more. I would learn to be satisfied, just the way I was. The only thing I wanted was to get out of this mountain in one piece. I stood up, the golden light having swept all the ghosts away, and started running back the way I came, not sure of where I was going. It was then that I discovered that the trees were moving. The fear returned but this time it wasn’t externally influenced. It generated from within. I felt certain I was cursed. I ran wildly like a mad man between the trees as they reached out to grab me, bending and twisting in between just in time. I could see better, my eyes had adjusted to the darkness but the eerie feeling hadn’t left me. It was still hanging around. I ran for a long time before I made any headway at all. All I was doing was dodging the trees that tried to reach out for me with their branches. Mere mortals shouldn’t dare the gods, I thought. I felt certain that I had missed my window of opportunity to turn back at the top of the stairwell. Then I heard the cries, the cries of Tripoli and of Gboks. I ran towards their voices. As soon as I stepped out of the dense jungle that covered the mountain floor, I was greeted by the pervading darkness. I spotted Gboks and Tripoli a distance away as they stood, Tripoli as helpless as when I’d left her and Gboks swinging a flaming torch. I felt ashamed of myself; they weren’t running away, they were fighting. Not Tripoli though, but Gboks was fighting, Protecting her; Warding off the trees as they tried to reach for them. With each tree that got closer, Tripoli screamed. Despite all her mouth, she was pathetic. Otherwise for the torch that Gboks was holding which blinked like a firefly against the night, the mountain was covered in complete darkness. Some fires were starting few metres from
where they both stood. Some of the trees had caught fire as a result of the torch Gboks kept swinging continuously. I ran forward, squishing and pushing my way through the trees surrounding them till I got to them. Gboks! I called out, as soon as I was close enough to be within his earshot. He turned back to look at me and exclaimed ` where have you been? I’ve been looking all over for you, see! we have to get out of here fast’, he said, `this mountain would soon give way...’ at that instant a tree branch reached out for him from his back and I ran forward but alas it was too late, it dragged him backwards into the midst of others, and a couple more trees fell on him, dragging him backwards to the jungle. His turning to answer my call had left a wide space open in his guard. I was just in time to catch the torch before it fell to the floor and went out completely. With it I jumped into the middle of the trees holding Gboks, using the torch to set aflame any tree that got in my way. `Grab Tripoli and get out of here’, Gboks screamed from within the multitude of trees that were threatening to drown him. `I can’t leave here without you, I don’t know the way back’, I echoed back to him as I worked frantically to get him out of the grasp of the trees. I was making some progress, his face was visible within that mass of entangled trees. `You don’t understand’, he said with obvious difficulty as tree branches trashed wildly, trying to keep me away from him. `This mountain is going to collapse’ he added. I dropped the torch and used both my hands, I didn’t know what impact I hoped to make with these but I just couldn’t leave him here. I heaved and panted as I tried to separate him from the branches that entangled themselves firmly around him. The more I tried, the tighter they became, entangling themselves around him like a python squeezing its prey to death. Tripoli was screaming again now, I could hear her voice. Exhausted and having not made any significant progress, I didn’t give up. I could feel the ground shaking underneath me. I stopped trying to move the trees and sat down on the floor next to the burning torch, giving in to despair. I closed my eyes and asked myself why wouldn’t they move? Why wouldn’t they move? I thought again trying to figure out the secret behind them. I want them to move. I really wanted them to move! I convinced myself and stood up again, newly forged determination visible on my face. I picked up the torch next to me and attacked the mass of trees. Gboks! I shouted, I heard a muffled shout, they had covered him. It was only a matter minutes before he suffocated to death. None of the branches dared touched me, for I was surrounded by fire. All the trees around, I had set ablaze. `This might hurt a little’ I said, as I bent down to set the mass of trees squeezing Gboks to death on fire. I had dreaded doing it because I was afraid he would get hurt, left with no choice, I had to do what I had to do. It didn’t take long before the trees were sizzling with fire. Gbom! Gbam! Those were the new sounds assaulting my ears. Though I couldn’t see through the darkness, I knew that the mountain had begun the slow process of caving in. I dipped my hands into the hot sizzling fire before me and pulled out a coughing, badly burned Gboks. He was still burning and instantly rolled on the floor a couple of times till the fire on him was gone. `We have to leave now’ he managed to wheeze in the midst of a coughing fit, as he stood up. This way he said and led the way paying no attention to the numerous burns on his body. When we got to where Tripoli was, she lay unconscious, sprawled on the floor. I bent down, confirmed she was still
alive and picked her up with my sore burnt hands and carried her. With Gboks leading the way, we ran up the stair well, as the fire we had started raged below, having all the oxygen in the world to support it, burning and consuming all in its path. All the while when we were running, I kept thinking of how we were going to squeeze through that tunnel in time to make it out alive. With Tripoli unconscious, it only made things complicated. Like he read my mind, before we got to the top of the stairwell, he stopped and examined a huge crack in the mountain wall. This should be the place, I heard him mutter to himself. `What are you doing?’ I shouted above the din of noise the chaos happening around us was causing. `Getting us out alive’ he replied as he slammed his shoulder into the wall. The second time he slammed, the crack gave way and he fell through it, screaming. I moved towards the opening he had created and looked down. I expected to see nothing or perhaps see his blood splattered on the mountainside but he was on a ledge a little bit beneath the opening he had created, the same ledge we had paused to rest on our tedious climb up. I didn’t think twice, I jumped after him and landed a few feet down, seriously bruising my elbow and hitting my forehead in the process. Tripoli fell out of my arms, courtesy of the landing’s impact. Luckily, she was unharmed, I took all the damage. As I rubbed the bump on my forehead, I looked down at my bruised elbow, it was an ugly sight indeed! The white of my bone was showing. Gboks lay on the floor writhing in pain, clutching his shoulders as the mountain vibrated again. There was no two ways about it, I was scared, scared to the bone marrow. I didn’t think the ledge was going to hold us much longer. Gboks! I screamed as the ledge suddenly gave way and from that height we coursed towards the ground to our deaths as gravity forcefully pulled us down. .................................................................................................................................................... I opened my eyes again, surprised to still be alive. My head felt like a cracked nut that would split open. I couldn’t see clearly under the moonlight. It was a full moon. Are you ok Dimpka? I rolled over out of shock, it sounded like Bebe’s voice. I looked around, Tripoli lay on the floor, unconscious but breathing. Gboks was not too far from her but alive too... albeit unconscious. I looked up, the strangest sight confronted me. `There’s no time to be rolling over like a wolf cub’ the voice said again, `or looking at your handiwork’ it added. `You’ll soon be surrounded, so sit up and listen to me’ the voice said again as the ghost before me materialised. Bebe? I said involuntarily as I moved back, trying to maintain a safe distance between me and the ghost remembering what happened in the mountain. `It’s me this time around Dimpka, not an imposter, and don’t ask me any irrelevant questions’, he said bitingly, just exactly the way he used to say it when he was alive. `I wonder how you could be so deaf and nonreactive he said. I kept tugging at you as you were climbing up the stairwell in the mountain but you’re worse than a dead man. I remembered having that feeling that something was pulling me back but the fear in me then disallowed me from looking back. It was Bebe alright, the ghost looked just exactly like him when he was alive, it
talked just like him. The only thing odd was that he was translucent. I looked around seeing wood splinters scattered everywhere. `What happened?’ I asked. `You’ve awakened’ he answered. `The first mortal man ever to awaken. And my...my... what wild emotions you’ve got. You can see the result’. .................................................................................................................................................... Panting and gasping for breath, I continued running, following the directions from the voice of Bebe, trying not to lose my way under the impenetrable shadows of the trees. Anyone that had seen me running then would have been alarmed. I was running in between trees and Gboks dangled on my left, wrapped like a cocooned insect in wood, while Tripoli dangled on my right, looking the same way, as they were passed from tree to tree, being held by nothing but branches. As they were swung, a branch from one tree would unloosen itself and another from the next would fasten itself and swing them again, like tentacles. Doing this was what was making me pant for breath not the act of running in itself. Bebe’s ghost had materialised before me and told me how to do this. `Exercise control over imagination’, he had said. He had explained this ability to manoeuvre wood as that which immortality had awakened within me. He also went as far as explaining what had happened in the mountain, the trees had gone wild, but it was that same wildness that had saved our lives. I remembered the strange sight that confronted me as I looked up, webs of tree branches spun in a wild manner. It was those webs that had broken our fall and saved our lives. I kept running and a few moments after, I stopped, trying to catch my breath. I didn’t even know what I was running from. Bebe’s voice had just said to run, not explaining anything and I had obeyed without asking questions. Under a tree I stopped, panting for breath. I leaned back to rest on its trunk and surprisingly, it was soft. Then something warm dripped on me. Thinking about early signs of rain, I entertained thoughts about the weather changing. For a moment I thought it was going to rain and looked up, only to find myself staring into two glowing yellow slits, hanging in the darkness. Hiss... I heard as the fork like tongue was illuminated against the dull light from its eyes. The tiredness left me instantly as I darted out of that vicinity, the snake slithering after me, hissing and spitting. I was breathing really hard, looking backwards and running forward at the same time. I couldn’t deny it; I was scared to the bone marrow. I was so caught up in running for dear life, slipping behind trees, as the snake slithered between them. It took all I had to have my imagination going. Hiss... I heard behind me, it wasn’t going to give up on its meal without a fight. I wished there was something out of the ordinary I could do, but moving Tripoli and Gboks as it was, took away all my concentration and strength. Green foam landed at my front again soaking into the ground, it had missed me by inches. `It was spitting at me again’ I thought .I hated to imagine what would happen, if it caught up with me so I put in a little more energy, even though there was little left. `Left’, `right’, and` right again’. I took another heavy breath as I refused to stop for a breather. I could feel the snake’s presence behind me; it kept on
slithering and sliding in the darkness between the trees, cracking dry twigs that had lain undisturbed on the ground for decades, it moved like it owned the forest. Screams of smaller animals rented the air as the horribly huge snake passed through their abode, crushing them in its wake. In my flight for life I saw it, my saving grace; the humongous rubble of the collapsed mountain, brightly illuminated under the light of the full moon. It was enough start the foundations of a new mountain if it were so; that men built mountains. As soon as I saw it, I realised it was my last hope and I knew what I had to do. I climbed it, knowing that snakes couldn’t climb, branches of trees twisting and sprouting out of the stone rubble to help with Gboks and Tripoli. A few seconds after I approached the mountain, the snake announced its presence with a very loud body slam which shook the mountain and almost toppled the climbing me. The snake was not to be out done, I could hear it hissing and trying to twist its way after me. I gasped for a fresh breath as I successfully reached the top of the flattened rubble. Panting from the heavy climb, I turned to look back and suddenly saw the snake rearing its ugly head, silhouetted against the full moon. I panicked, instantly hitting the floor, closing my eyes and imagining wood springing up from all places, covering us up like a dome and it happened. Just as Bebe had said, Imagination was the key. It was at a huge cost, though, as Tripoli and Gboks that were hanging and being suspended mid air by tree branches, thanks to me, hit the hard cold rocky ground so hard, that I felt I might have killed them. I couldn’t imagine two things at once so it was one for the other. Suddenly I heard a dull thud, the snake trying to slam its way in. I smiled, feeling cool with myself and suddenly the pain hit me. It felt like my head was going to burst, I fell on the floor grasping it and screaming, it felt like I was having a brain wave. And just as soon as it came, it was gone. I remained on the ground sweating, my head felt so much lightened and the pain, although still there was reduced. Inside of my dome was dark and I couldn’t see a thing. `Are you ok?’ Bebes voice asked. `My head is still throbbing’ but I think I can manage it’, I replied him. `Dimpka is that you?’ I heard tripolis voice ask. `Is that you?. Where are we?’ She asked again. `Shhhhhh!’ I answered. `I’m coming to meet you now’. I stood up, despite the throbbing pain in my head and tried to find my way amidst the darkness. Then I stepped on something soft and suddenly I was thrown backwards. `Arrrgh!’ I screamed, as my head hit the hard stone floor. Then I felt something hard and cold at my throat. `Who are you?’ I heard a voice whisper. I closed my eyes and imagined it and as soon as I opened them, he was trapped by tree branches, his hands and legs held immobile by wooden branches that had twisted around them. Then I squinted my eyes and saw him well. Gboks! I whispered. `Who are you?’ He said again. `It’s me, Dimpka’. I told him. `Dimpka! Are you ok?’ Tripolis voice carried to me again. Loosen me he said. I got down on my knees and tore apart the branches holding his legs with my bare hands and stood up to free his hands. As soon as I was done he punched me, in the face, a full punch. I staggered backwards and fell down, cowering at his fury. You’re not going to catch me unawares again, now I repeat for the first and last time, `who are you and what have you done with Dimpka?’ `I don’t know what you’re talking about’ I responded in fright. What had gone wrong with him, I wondered. I’m Dimpka, I said. `You’re a liar’ he said,
kicking me full in the face again. I spat blood the second time. I looked up and saw him; he was still coming towards me. I closed my eyes and imagined the branches around his legs again, I didn’t feel them holding him and so I continued imagining them coming out from everywhere, using my ears to gage where he might be. I opened them and only got another full kick in the face. I flew backwards a few metres and hit the hard stony ground. I spat some more blood. `It was no use’ I thought. He can hear the movement of the branches before they sprout. `Wait! Wait!’ I pleaded as he came closer to me, scared of what he was going to do. `Dimpka are you all right?’ Tripoli asked again. `I’m trapped where I am. Are you all right?’ I couldn’t answer. Rather I turned my mind back to him. Wait! I pleaded once more. `I’ll tell you who I am’. He paused to listen to what I was about to say. `I’m Dimpka’ I said and received another full kick in the face. I held my face, it was bleeding and my head was still throbbing. `We went together from Tedape on this journey’, I said, as he approached me again. `We went to Immortalia together’, I said trying again.` And we both hate her’, I added. I closed my eyes waiting for another kick. It never came. I opened them again and saw him bending towards me, with his hand outstretched. `I’m sorry about this’, he said pointing to my face, `I had to be sure it was you’. I accepted his outstretched hand and let him pull me up. `Your heart beat never changed, it proved you were telling the truth’. As soon as I stood up fully, I punched him in the face. `What in the name of the gods is this for?’ He asked. Now you know how it feels, next time be quicker about your judgements. I said and hugged him. `Now let’s go and get her’ I added. `Tripoli!’ I shouted. `I’m here!’ I heard her moan. `This way’ Gboks said, as he took the lead with his superior ears, and I followed. When we got to her, she was in bad shape, trapped under a huge rock. Thud! Thud! I still heard the sounds of the snake trying to break in. `What took you so long’ she whined from under the huge rock, as Gboks tried to shift it. Don’t worry, let me do this I said to Gboks and he stepped aside. I closed my eyes and imagined the wood lifting the rock. I opened them, as Tripoli squeezed herself out through the opening I had made for her. `How did you do that?’ she asked as she came out and sat on the floor examining her bruised thighs. I couldn’t keep myself from looking and I could feel something beginning to budge. `I said how did you do that?’ She asked again, snapping me out of my hurriedly formed fantasy. I opened my mouth and just gibberish came out. `What is he saying?’ she asked Gboks. In case you haven’t noticed, Dimpka has awakened. `But it’s impossible’ she said, `he’s not even from our clan’. `Maybe that was the whole point of our journey, his awakening’, he said. She looked at me, doubt still in her eyes. `It’s true’ I said, turning my face away. `So it means he’s the one who put us into this darkness, erected this huge wooden dome, because from what I can see, his element sure as chaos is wood’. Before I talked, Gboks had answered. `It’s a strong element but it can’t be him, he should only be able to do a few simple tricks now, like the one he used to get you out from under that rock, not something as complex as a dome’. She looked at me, unanswered questions still lingering on her face. `Wait!’ Gboks said just as she was about to say something else. `What is that noise?’ `What?’ I asked. `Shhhhhh! Keep quiet and listen’. Thud! Thud! Thud! `I was about to explain that to you both now you see...’I said. `shhhh!’ Gboks cuts in again, `keep
quiet and let me listen’. He stood like that for a few seconds and then suddenly screamed, `duck! Get down!’ We...me and Tripoli, we both obeyed instantly, I prostrating on the floor and she on top of me, as a flash of white filled the whole place accompanied by the loud rumbling noise of thunder. I got up and opened my eyes, wood splinters flew around everywhere, the dome was gone and the full moon glittered on our faces and where we truly were, the ruins of Immortalia. The perpetrators stood quite a distance from us, they were four of them and as I looked straight ahead, I stared into the face of their leader, the remaining three stood behind him. It was the most dangerous man I had ever set my eyes upon, the man who wasn’t afraid to kill, it was the man who killed Bebe, the lightening element immortal, his younger brother; Timi. `We have three little rats trapped in a hole’, he chuckled from where he stood. .................................................................................................................................................... `Do you know them?’ Gboks asked in a whisper. `I don’t know who the remaining three are, but I sure do know the first one’ I whispered back. He’s an immortal. I could see the look of widened shock on his face as I dropped the shocker. The downcast look of one who had forfeited a battle even before it started wasn’t one that was new to me. Tripoli stood up and joined us in standing. `Are you sure you’re up to this?’ I asked her. `All man for himself’, she replied me back in a whisper. I wanted to laugh at those her words but here wasn’t the time and place. `Well the rat has gone off and done make himself some friends’. Timi said sarcastically. `Well I’ve got bad news for you; today... you reach the end of your road, no more running. When a cat meets with a rat you know what happens... I’ve smoked you out of your hurriedly constructed rat hole and well there’s nowhere left for you to run to. Welcome to the jaws of the cat’. `We don’t stand a chance’ Gboks whispered to me. `I know’, I whispered back, but we can’t die like cowards. `When you step on the territory of the gods expect to in cure the wrath of the unknown’. Timi added. `Kill them’ he ordered conclusively, as the men moved forward to carry out his instructions. `Let’s go’ I said as Gboks brought out the sword he had used to threaten me back in the dome. He brought out a second one and held them both in his hands. I noticed they were twin swords. Tripoli also brought out a very evil looking dagger, I was the odd one out, weaponless! Take! gboks said and offered me one of his swords. Thanks! I said accepting it with gratitude, as we ran out. Even if I died, my main focus was to get to Timi and avenge my protector. As sudden as Timi’s orders had been barked, they were by our sides, daggers raised to our throats. Well...well! Timi said from where he stood, I never saw a bunch of rats so easy to catch. I closed my eyes, imagined and opened them. In those few seconds I had used, much had happened. The man holding a dagger to my throat suddenly discovered he couldn’t move again, he was fastened in place by wood. I smiled, as I left him there immobile, running towards Timi. If these were my last moments, I might as well enjoy them. I ran towards him, leaving an enraged Gboks fighting with one of Timi’s goons behind. I saw the other man smiling in derision, as he repeatedly stabbed the air and Tripoli; as she sneaked
behind him holding her dagger up high. We might not be immortals but we had a few good tricks up our sleeves too. Timi stood enjoying all that was happening, it was like entertainment to him. I was ran from his side, knowing fully well that he couldn’t see me. I jumped, sword raised high and just as the sword was about to impact with his neck, I was pushed away. I landed on the rocks, bruising my already bruised face. I looked up and there he stood. I was surprised; it was the man I thought I had purportedly immobilised. He stood with a grin on his face. I stood up and wiped the blood off my face. Timi turned and looked at me, giving me a smile. `There was no way I could get to him’, that was what that smile on his face said to me. It was an arrogant smile. I turned back to my opponent and ran towards him, screaming as I raised the sword high, he blocked it with his dagger and then we began sword play. I was attacking and he was blocking doing it with so much ease. I increased the ferocity of my attacks, panting as I raised the sword expecting it to bite flesh and being repeatedly disappointed, as it connected metal. It connected with metal again and with his free hand he punched me. He was strong, very strong. I flew backwards a few metres, hitting the stony ground, as I dragged a few feet and my blood smeared the ground from a gaping wound. Aooooooooowwwww! I heard and looked sideways; under the moonlight, I could see that Tripoli had stabbed him in the neck. He was on the floor and was howling. Gboks, meanwhile was still dancing around, somersaulting here and there, as he dodged the assaults of the somewhat slimy looking man and countered perfectly leaving a few fresh slices for every time he countered. Enough! I told myself. I looked up just in time to block the thrust of his dagger with the sword I held in my hands. I was the lazy one here, even Tripoli was faring better than I was. With these thoughts in my mind, I stood up and pushed him back, using the rage building within me as a new source of motivation. Like a wounded lion I struck back, moving faster, faster and faster until he could no longer keep up with me and then I stabbed him. He coughed blood as I removed my sword. I raised it to severe his head and suddenly he wasn’t there again, he was running. `What insolence’ I thought as I closed my eyes and imagined. The sprouting wood caught him faster than expected and as soon as I opened my eyes he was held fast by heavily layered wood, it made him stand like one nailed to a cross, prevented from moving, as it slowly squeezed him to death. Satisfied, I looked around once more. Aooooooooow! I heard. It was the howl of the man Tripoli had stabbed in the neck. He was supposed to be dead by now. I turned and looked closely enough at them. I witnessed his horrid transformation, as underneath the moon he became a full beast. He pushed Tripoli away with one of his hands and she hit a jutting rock sliding a few feet backwards as her blood smudged the stones. He stood up and howled at the moon and took off after her. I looked for Gboks and saw him fighting with something familiar. It was the huge snake that had chased me through the forest. That snake still gave me the shivers, it could swallow a man whole. No wonder it had climbed up, it was an immortal. Then, like a bird late to its nest, It struck me that my trapped foe would also transform. I was too late. I looked towards where I had trapped him but he was no longer there, where could he be? Then suddenly a thousand insects descended upon me from the sky, I felt a thousand stings at once. They all came together and materialised into the man I was fighting, he held
his dagger and stood a distance away smiling at me. No wonder he had escaped and blocked my assault on Timi the other time so fast, I thought. Suddenly he disintegrated and the insects came for me again, I swung the sword in mad fury but alas it was no use. I was bleeding all over by the time they reassembled in the sky for the next assault. I had small swellings all over me and new ones were coming out fast. I was done for. I looked towards Gboks, his case was helpless, there is nothing worse than knowing how your opponent is going to attack and being able to do nothing about it. In his own case, he could hear the snake coming and couldn’t dodge it or counter due to its size. It was like...everywhere. He stabbed in a wild frenzy but I knew it was no use, he could barely stand on his feet. This was the true might of the immortals, what separated them from mere mortals like us. Tripoli was worse off, screaming and running the beast gave chase, based on not what he could see, but what he could smell. Her illusions couldn’t work on that one. I loosened my grip on the sword given to me, it was useless. I called Gboks and tossed the sword back to him, at least he would be better off with two swords. Me! I needed none. There’s only one way to kill mosquitoes in Africa and I turned to the sky spreading my hands and palms gearing up for the kill as the insects swarmed again. They came towards me, I was going to kill as many of them with my palms and cause him as much pain as I could before I died. I started clapping on them with both hands, killing as many as I could. I felt the pain of a thousand insect bites on my skin but it didn’t weaken me, it only made me angrier and I clapped on like a mad man, killing a bunch of them every single time I clapped. .................................................................................................................................................... I was on the ground now, unarguably the worst off of us three. I couldn’t move again, it was like I had just taken a blood bath. The insects had overpowered me at last. The man stood a little distance away, bleeding here and there with patches of skin missing. I had clapped as many insects as I could to death and it had affected him, they were after all his body, it was one for all and all for one. The snake had swallowed Gboks amidst blood curdling scrams from him and was still trying to digest him. Tripoli was on the ground. The beast had caught up with her and was taking chunks of skin off her body as he took angry swipes at her. I guessed she would soon be gone too. And me? Was this where my story was going to end? Well, I couldn’t see anything else and so I guessed this was it for me. The man stood a distance away, trying to build up enough rage to kill me in the most painful way he could imagine. He rushed at me, once more a thousand insects, as I heard Timi’s voice hollering at them to hurry up. I felt their bites and just when I was slipping away, they stopped biting and insects hanging around, waiting for their turns to bite all fell around me like rain droplets. I opened my eyes weakly, looking sideways, I couldn’t see clearly but the beast on top of Tripoli had stopped moving too. Then I saw why, there was metal all over him, restraining him, holding him back like a leashed dog. I picked a dead insect up and brought it up close to my eyes, the moon light reflected off it, what killed them, it was a small shiny metal pin and it had pierced the one I held right through the middle. `Was the hand of the gods in this? I wondered. I heard Timi screaming, and at that moment he
appeared, the man behind it all. He looked familiar and at the same time unfamiliar, his appearance caused metal to fly all around, wheezing like insects. It was like he had caused a chasm in time, everything I had expected to happen had just stopped suddenly. He picked me up and as he did so I saw the snake; it lied awkwardly on the floor, split into two from the stomach, the metal that squeezed it to splitting point was still there. And from the mass of gooey snake insides, Gboks head protruded. He was covered in slimy gooey stuff and his eyes were open. He stared at me with them, his lifeless eyes. I took my eyes away and closed them as I slowly slipped into unconsciousness. Then it felt like I was flying again and all was quiet. ....................................................................................................................................................
CHAPTER 5 Father. Son. So he finally found what you wanted him to? No, not yet, at least not everything I wanted him to, but he has awakened. He’s useless the way he is now. I know. So what do we do? About what? He’s unstable and not responding to any treatment given to him, summarily he’s dying. The girl is responding though. Get in touch with the man who brought them here, after all he claimed he was sent by the princess. I think she might need to pay him a visit or else... Or else what? He dies. And if he dies I’m gone too forever and we can’t have that happen, else the plan would suffer. It shall be done as you wish father. ....................................................................................................................................................
Round and smooth like black painted metal You pierced my thoughts, a lone wanderer Not maybe one, perhaps two Walking in soliloquy, No companion but the soft breeze blowing on my skin,
I heard the laughter of companions struck in merry making And I walked And I pondered, Pondered and pondered Till I met solace Few moments I spent with her and my saddened heart suddenly re‐ignited, Not with the flames of lust, But of peace and gentleness And of finally being understood And then, There he was smiling and here to take her, Please don’t take her away! My heart pleaded But my defiant eyes dared him and at that moment I knew I had lost, But he taught me a lesson, a lesson I would never forget A lesson to go back and grab what was mine, At long last I looked up and the stars smiled at me And I laughed as my heart filled with joy at the thought of being wanted, This long lonely night.
These words, I wrote them here. They captured the pain in my heart, the exact way I was feeling. I recited them again and again feeling sadder with each time. Then, I saw a very beautiful woman, the most beautiful I had ever set my eyes upon. She came to me, touched me, looked in my face and smiled. I smiled back too but then looked at myself, felt bad and frowned. I recited the poem again and turned. `You’re too good for me’ I added. `I’m a man of sorrows’. Not yet she replied as she placed a finger on my lips, hushing me. Do you think you can go back? She asked me. `No’, I replied. `I don’t want to. There’s nothing left for me back there, I’ll rather stay here and sing out my sorrows to all that pass by’. `Would you go back for me?’ she asked. I looked at her and told her, here, I know who I am; a man who doesn’t know who he is and has a heart filled with sorrows that he can let out. Before she left, she looked back once more into my eyes. She looked at me long and hard until her eyes watered. I had never seen any as caring as her. `Go back, things will change...you will change them’ she said. In those few seconds our eyes locked together, I could swear that so many things had changed; already she was beginning to wear down my resistance. `What you bemoan here, was never lost there’, she added and was gone.
I opened my eyes, sweating all over. I had been dreaming. It felt like I had been sleeping for ages. I tried to move and the sudden weakness of my body hit me. I was so hungry that I could eat a horse. I turned my head and saw my alarmed nurse rushing to my side, `food...’ I managed to mutter. `He’s awake! He’s awake! Hurry bring some food here right now’. I recognised her voice and I recognised her. I was back in Tedape, at the master’s place. I was in safe hands. I smiled as food was brought in and I was helped to a sitting position to devour it. .................................................................................................................................................... I was patting my belly, sitting in front of shining plates, feeling alright and very cool with myself. At that instant, my mind was devoid of worries and that’s when he entered. That proud taut face, the perfectly built body, the strength in those eyes and finally the tattoo on his arm. It all came flooding back to me; pictures, images, flashes, everything and suddenly it was like I was suffering from an overload, I clutched my head and fell down on the bamboo bed screaming, my head felt like it was going to burst and then I fainted. I came to, a few minutes after in his arms. His and so many other anxious faces bent over mine and stared at me, hoping I was alright. `Akpoti’, I mumbled. `My prince I remember you’. My head was starting to generate pains and it was like the whole room was spinning. `I’m tired’ I said and closed my eyes. I reopened them two days later, according to my warrior prince who never left the room. I felt stronger as soon as I opened them, remembering everything perfectly well, especially the battle at the Fulon pass. I turned to him to request answers, the answers I seeked so much that I was willing to throw away my life for it. `We both died on that day’, I said solemnly recalling the events of that deadly battle. `Why am I alive and why are you alive too? Can you explain that? I asked. From where he sat on the floor cross legged, he started; `On that day’, he said, `all three thousand elite warriors of Leog died on the battlefield’. We lost that battle. It wasn’t an equally matched battle, it was an unfair one. We were outnumbered and outsmarted. I was stabbed repeatedly and pushed into the pond. And then out of nowhere, she came and gave me back my life and more. `Who is she?’ I asked. `The princess goddess’, he replied. `She made me immortal’, he added clarifying my question. `You mean she made you a god’, Bebe’s voice interrupted, as he materialised. I jumped back in fright, he wasn’t supposed to be here, `why was he here’, I wondered. `Who is he?’ Akpoti asked. `The question is who are you?’ Bebe threw back at him. `What happened on that day was that the death of all your comrades plus her interference on a large scale with an immortality transfer ceremony in which I was involved, made you into what you are now’. `The newly born iron god’, another voice said as another ghost materialised. `What is this?’ Akpoti asked in alarm. `Who are they?’ `Dimpka was just a decoy’ Bebe said, picking up from where the other ghost left off. `So now why do you want
him? Has he got something that interests you both so badly?’ He asked. `The princess just wants to meet with him that’s all!’ Akpoti said, his nose flaring with anger. `On that day the death of all your comrades secured your godhood, healing him was a last minute decision suggested by you to her. You both needed a decoy, something to throw the gods and their minions off course until you fully came into your own. I wonder whose idea it was to make him forget and drop him miles away from where the battle occurred?’ Bebe added sarcastically. I looked at akpoti, he couldn’t face me. He stormed out. `What was that all about?’ I asked, as I turned to the two ghosts. `You’re supposed to have departed this plane of existence. You’re supposed to be resting in peace’. `We’re part of you now’, Bebe said. `What do you mean we?’ I asked, thinking spurious thoughts. `I and he’ He said, pointing to the other ghost that stood by his side. `Who is he?’ I asked, `and what do you mean you’re part of me? you left as soon as I got back to that rubble...’ `I’m oduduwa the first’, the second ghost cuts in with a voice so bass that I had never heard anything deeper than it in my life before. I fell quiet instantly. `What happened in Immortalia had been envisaged by the gods. They put safeguards in place especially just for me. In anticipation of what you did back there, they put a safeguard in a place to ensure I would be stuck with whoever perpetrated it. The whole essence of it is keeping me bonded’. `Why would they do that?’ I asked. `It’s because in his prime as an immortal, he’s the only one that rivalled a god, he was so powerful they had to pull him down. `For him the gods came down. It’s a legend I never forgot’. Bebe said. `That is why they built Immortalia in the first place, because of him, to lock him down. As a free ghost he could easily find a host body and return. The Immortal who almost became a god. They knew what it cost to bring him down. He’s the greatest threat to the gods. And me, I’m bonded to you because your mind called for me’. `That’s strange’, I said. `So what does Akpoti have to do with all this?’ I asked. They looked at each other and then Oduduwa answered. `Akpoti was the strongest man living on the face of Africa. That is not surprising taking into note his pedigree. He descended from the only two that could have beat me at the first convention called by the gods. The convention that produced me as the first immortal’. `They eloped together during the convention’, he added. `So what does this have to do with me?’ I asked. `Akpoti and the princess had met before the battle at Fulon pass’, Bebe continued, picking up from where Oduduwa left off. `She had to seek him out because of what she believed he was. He was crucial to her. I believe they had discussed and he knew the battle was going to have to end that way. To become a god, he had to die, not alone but with men like him. Callously, the lives of you and your comrades were not put into consideration. But you... you never died, you were almost gone, you were brought back by the princess to serve as a decoy. A decoy for Akpoti; her new right arm. You never died, you were never immortal. Your survival of the hanging might have been an act of pity on the part of the executioner. Your awakening, that’s the only thing that puzzles us, there’s no reason for why that would happen. But nothing I say now can change the fact that it has happened. You didn’t just awaken with any random element; you awakened with one rarer and stronger than the one Akpoti has. An element never seen before. You awakened naturally. That is why they want you. The rat they sent scuttling now
has the Lions weakness in its mouth’. I don’t understand, why would Akpoti betray Leog? I asked in bewilderment. `I don’t know. As ghosts we can’t read minds, we can only see events as they were and understand things that have happened’. `I’m weak’, I said to the two of them, `I wasn’t of any use not even to myself. Gboks died and I couldn’t do anything about it’. `Not anymore’ Bebe answered. `You have with you both the strongest and the cleverest immortals that ever lived’. `We’ll make you into something stronger than what you are now’. Oduduwa added. ` I’ll sleep over this one’ I said and left the two of them standing as I put my legs back on the bed and went back to sleep. `You’re not a pawn to be used by anyone no matter how powerful they may be.’ `My foremost desire was to protect my kingdom.’ `Destiny can be changed.’ `The weakest was used to protect the strongest.’ `Don’t go feeling bad.’ `She’s interested in you, she wants to meet you.’ `It never left you.’ `Why would Akpoti betray us?’ `I love my family.’ Voices in my head, they wouldn’t let me rest. I woke up sweating all over. I felt weak. I stood up from the bamboo bed and walked out into the night. I felt the pangs of hunger but what worried me now was more than that. I was a confused being. It was the wee hours of the day and everywhere was still dark. Tedape hadn’t woken up. The moon shone brightly in the dark sky. I kept walking blindly, till I found myself at the top of a little cliff overlooking the forest. Just before I sat down, someone said `I didn’t expect anyone to come disturb me at this time, can’t one have a few moments of being alone even in deserted places?’ `I’m sorry, I didn’t know, I just stumbled upon it’, I quickly answered in self defence, turning to look at where the female voice emanated from. `Tripoli’ I whispered in shock, as I saw who it was. `What are you doing here?’ I asked.` Dimpka’, she replied, shocked as well. `I didn’t know you’ve recovered’. I sat down next to her and she exclaimed; `There’s not a single scratch mark on you, you had a perfect recovery’. `Are you serious?’ I said jokingly, laughing it off as a joke. The look on her face killed my laughter. I looked at myself too and was stunned; there wasn’t a single scratch or scar on my skin. `That’s odd’ I thought to myself.` So do you come around here often?’ I asked, stylishly changing the topic. `Yes, I came around here a lot when I was young, me and my younger brother. He was the one who burnt that rock over there’ she said as she pointed to a blackened rock and laughed. `Well these days I just come here, just to think, to try and forget what happened’. I looked into her eyes and saw the tears escaping. `It’s a pity he didn’t make it’, she said amidst the escaping tears, `he was a good man’. I stretched my hands towards her face and with my fingers wiped off the tears that had begun to run down her cheeks like a waterfall. `No don’t cry. What has happened has happened, there’s nothing we can do to change it’. She let out a loud sob and leaned towards me. I offered her my shoulders to cry on and she cried, letting it all out as I patted her on the back. `You’re lucky’ she said a few minutes later. She had stopped crying and we were sitting down side by side again. `You healed up completely’, `I still have the scars on me, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to wear a short dress again, except I cast an illusion on myself’. I touched her hands with mine and folded the sleeves of the dress she wore upwards. I felt the roughness of the scars as my hands touched her skin. I raised it up so that
it was bathed in moonlight, telling her as I bent to kiss it; ` you’re beautiful just the way you are.’ `Is that really what you think?’ She asked in her soft voice, as I raised my lips from her skin to look up at her. `Yes’ I mumbled as our bodies moved closer to each other. Surrounded by flowers, trees and chirping insects, our heads moved closer to each other and under the moonlight, our lips brushed. I kissed her gently and she kissed me back. My hands moved, taking the mass of thread weaved together out of the way, as they explored her body to feel the supple roundness of her breasts. Her body yielded to my touch and she moaned, urging me to go on, as her fingers roamed on my shoulder, loosening the knot to the wrapper that covered my nakedness. With that out of the way she clasped my shoulders and refused to let go. `Wait...’ I whispered in the heat of our passion, as her hands stroked my manhood and closed around it. `Is this an illusion?’ I asked. `Did you wish it was?’ She whispered back . `No’ I mumbled, as she pulled me closer and our lips met again. She tasted sweet like cinnamon and with her hands she guided mine all over her sleek body, exploring all her secret places as I whispered sweet nothings into her ears. Darkness was an ally to us as we shifted from our sitting position to the soft grass filled with flowers. She giggled as I took my mouth from her nipples down to her belly button. I took my time kissing all the scars inflicted upon her by that beast. All items of clothing were discarded right next to us and there was nothing to bar us from answering the third call of nature. I was on top of her, holding her on the grass and kissing her all over her supple body till she elicited soft moans and couldn’t hold back anymore. I couldn’t either. Moaning, she told me she wanted me inside her and breathing huskily, I moved to meet with her demand. She elicited a soft scream and smiled as she felt me inside her. Interlocked like forest creepers we moved together first in a slow rhythm as we both moaned and groaned simultaneously savouring every moment together. As the rhythm picked up and our sweating bodies rubbed harder against each other, she wrapped her legs around me, her thighs urging me to go deeper. Her fingernails scratched my back as she moaned at me to hit harder. We moved, two entangled bodies high up on a cliff making love till she screamed and I groaned and I felt the release as we both climaxed together. .................................................................................................................................................... We lay naked on the grass together, using our clothes to support our heads, gazing at the moon and stars and she gently stroked my chest with her fingers. `I’ve been coming here every night since I recovered, thinking about you, praying and hoping you would make it and well!’ She paused, laughing, `here you are. Your face is lined with worries’ she said as she looked at my face, tracing every single line on it with her finger. `What in the world are you thinking about?’ `Well...family’ I replied. `Your father? Your mother?’ she said, punching me playfully. `No, my children’, I said, smiling. `You’re married’, she said, hitting me playfully in the rib as I burst out laughing. `No wonder you’re so skilled’, she added. `No, it’s not like that’ I said, wearing a sober face, `it’s just that I couldn’t remember a thing about my family, but now that I do, I discover that I really miss them’. `I’m sorry’, she said. `No, it’s ok’ I added. `They’re wonderful, they bring joy to me whenever I think of them’. `I can’t actually
believe we’re talking without arguing’ I said, changing the topic when I saw the gloomy look on her face. `I thought you were stubborn, very stubborn’. `I am stubborn’, she said confirming what I had said, `but even stubborn women show their tender sides to men they fancy’, she replied shoving me playfully. `So all that just happened now is because you fancy me?’ I asked. `Well... maybe more than that’. She said in a most playful manner shaking her head and wagging her finger as she did so. I laughed, amazed at her. I never imagined that she could be this much fun to be with. Hmmmn... I said. hmmmn... what? She asked me. `Well, I think we need to get back, before they put a search team out for us’. `One final thing before I stand up’. She said, refusing to budge from where she lay, her head on my chest. `What?’ I asked, listening with rapt attention. `Will I see you again?’ I thought for a while before I answered. `I’ll think it about it’, I replied her, c’mon let’s get dressed. .................................................................................................................................................... Like a bronze statue bathing in the rising sun She ran, beauty against the wind, All she ran past turned to stare At the epitome of beauty, Who normally swung her hips from left to right In a slowly calculated enticing rhyme, Leaving more to be desired as men salivated, And watched her come back and forth They all wondered; What would make an owl fly in the daylight? Or make the river cry at night? But none knew that; Heavy was her heart And broken was her spirit For the one she trusted the most Had hurt her the most. She ran, not caring to check her hair which was being blown in all directions by the wind. It was windy night and rain was about to fall. Worse still is her face; it was swollen and
covered in tears. She rushed into the hut and the man sitting on the bed looks up. She looks into his eyes but is short of speech. She can’t talk as he stares at her, her cheeks streaming with tears. Then suddenly she rushes outside and throws up. He steps out after her and comments; `Tripoli you’re pregnant. Who’s responsible?’ he asks calmly, the anger visible on his face. ` Dimpka’ she said, breaking down on the ground next to her vomit. The tears are gushing out freely from her eyes. `I was going to tell him tonight but now he’s gone, disappeared without a trace’. That man... he took away my Immortality and you did this with him... how could you? She sits on the floor sobbing uncontrollably as her brother vents out his frustration and anger. `By the gods, I’ll kill him for this’ He said breathing heavily as he stood up, inflamed his hands and clenched them into a fist, the fire on it burning brightly. ....................................................................................................................................................
Chapter 6 `Is everything prepared?’ The voice of a senior Xendu officer asks another. `Yes sir!’ He answers. `Remember there must be no mistakes, the emperor is riding out with us’. Yes sir! He salutes and departs the tent to give orders to junior officers. .................................................................................................................................................... `Your majesty, according to the reports we’ve gotten from our scouts’, one of the generals said, `the largest army they’ve ever seen is headed this way and according to rumours...’ `it’s not rumour’ another general cuts in angrily, `this is a war council and I think it’ll be better if we faced each other with the truth and stopped being diplomatic, so that we can take appropriate steps’ he said, looking around at the other generals seated around the roundtable as they all gave a nod of approval. `Your majesty’ the general who gained a nod of approval continued, `we sent out five scouts and four of them were captured. The last one was sent back with the heads of the remaining four and this message directly from the lips of their emperor “it is forbidden ever to make peace with a monarch, a prince or a people who have not submitted.”’ `Their emperor is riding with them?’ the king asked with a look of surprise on his face. `Yes your majesty’, the general who was interrupted by another answered. `Sound the talking drums, let all criers be sent out at once, every man capable of holding a weapon should be given one. We are going to ride out with the full might of this kingdom,’ the king ordered immediately. `His majesty’s words are final’. A general said and the rest echoed it. `It shall be done as you wish your majesty’, all the generals chorused together as the king stood up to take his leave. Just before he pushes aside the covering of the archway, he turns like one who has forgotten something really important and calls out, `Boli, tell them to also gild a horse for me’. He leaves them all with their mouths hanging open, even after he has departed. Surprise is written on their faces that their king is going to ride with them. They know what it portends. .................................................................................................................................................... Ogedemgbe! Ogedemgbe!! `Yes mother! I’m coming!’ The young boy replied, coming out from the bushes. `What are you doing there?’ His mother asked, her arms placed akimbo. `Nothing mother’, he replied
looking down at his feet. `Don’t tell me you’ve been crying again because of your brother’ his mother said, placing her hands on his chin, as she lifts his face upwards to look into hers. He softly removes his mother’s hands and says `you don’t understand mother, Okegbenle is going to get himself killed, he’s going to die. I’ve seen it in my dream, just like I saw father’s. `If your brother is going to die’ she whispers to him, `he’s doing it to protect you and me’. `No! It’s to prove to all of them; the bloody king, the stupid people that killed our father, that the son of a coward isn’t a coward...’ `sheesh!’ She cuts in, silencing him, `don’t let anyone hear you talking like that’. `Let them hear!’ He screamed, `it’s the truth!!’ `That they labelled my father a coward and killed him, that my brother is about to die too because of the same people that killed him, it’s unfair!!!’ He screamed again and turned, running back into the bush from where he came from, leaving his mother standing, shouting his name; `Ogedemgbe! Come back here, Ogedemgbe!!’ she called out. She stops shouting when she gets no response and stands there, transfixed, as one tear drop after the other escapes her eyes as she reflects on the truth of her son’s utterances. .................................................................................................................................................... ` Your majesty, the men of Xendu are getting closer, they’ve crossed the river and are now on the Fulon pass, they are heading in this direction’. `How ready are our men?’ The king asked the generals. `Our army is a hundred thousand strong; sixty thousand foot soldiers, ten thousand archers and thirty thousand men riding on horseback’. `We’ve placed them into three regiments’ another general volunteered. `We shall send ten thousand foot men and a thousand archers to the east, they shall stay on the Shere hills and lie in wait for us there. On the west to the heel of Zubi, we shall send twenty thousand with another thousand archers. Ten thousand foot men and three thousand archers shall remain at the city’s gates to defend it. Twenty thousand and a thousand archers shall march on and advance to face the enemy head on and lure them to the forest plains, where they shall meet with the thirty thousand men on horseback and four thousand archers who will be under your majesty’s command. Then the ten thousand and twenty thousand men from the east and west would come and together it would be a perfect ambush. It’s risky but we’re working based on the fact that it’s our terrain’. `The forest plains... It’s risky, it’s too close to the kingdom, anything can happen’ the king said in protest. `What if they overrun us?’ He asked. `That is exactly why we are going to leave ten thousand men behind’, the general answered. `They wouldn’t expect us to leave that much men behind. We think of the kingdom first, any other thing comes after’. `It has my approval’, the king said. `Tell them to ring the gong and open the weaponry today. We assemble at the city gates tomorrow’. .................................................................................................................................................... Inside Leog, everywhere is bustling, but it is not the bustling of a market place but the bustling of a weapons place. Blacksmiths put finishing touches to broken weapons. A kind
of fear has descended upon the city and even market women talk in whispers. Darkness has descended upon this once lively city, the city where trade and commerce once boomed, where travellers from far and wide come to visit, this wonder of Africa, the northern kingdom. Women wear black, already mourning the losses of their yet to be departed husbands and sons. The whole kingdom sits in silence, awaiting its fate. Even the king as he polishes his armour and ungilds the sword of his ancestors bemoans his fate and asks this question in his heart `why during my time?’. This are dark times indeed. .................................................................................................................................................... Elsewhere, the men of Xendu pause at a burning village as their emperor steps down from his horse to take a look at the remaining survivors. `Bow to the great khan’ a soldier shouts and they all bow, willingly or forcefully. `Kill them all’, he smirks. The order is carried out instantly and heads roll as birds from over head circle the area, making tooting noises at the unsightly blood soaking the chocolate brown earth. Their emperor climbs again and they resume their march. The croaking birds are scattered by the sound of the flapping wings of approaching vultures who smile with glee at fresh food left for them to prey on. They descend and settle down to their meal as the men of Xendu march on, leaving dust, destruction and despair in their trail. They are like poison and any where they pass through becomes desolate like flowers trampled upon. The hooves of their horses make the noise Thump! Thump! Thump! Their appearance is worse than snake venom, and many a king had fallen down dead from his throne at the sight of their unsightly numbers. Their glistening weapon and armour caught the glint from the sun and even animals, birds and insects skittered away from their path. .................................................................................................................................................... The silence of that day was worse than that of a graveyard, it superseded even that of the day the news of the defeat and death of the crown prince was broken, yet none was dead. At least not yet. News coming in from the scouts wasn’t helping matters. They all came back, wearing long faces. Hopelessness was clearly written in their walking steps; with the way they walked, dragging their feet. Men put on their armour with long faces. Crying women and girls watched their husbands, sons and brothers gird up to their inevitable deaths. On that day even the sun cried for it was covered by clouds. The whole atmosphere was gloomy. News had travelled that the king would ride. It didn’t help the situation as they all knew what it portent. Horses were saddled and mounted, armoured men moved out, assembling in front of the gates of Leog for the final attempt to protect their beloved city and all that was precious to them. In the midst of all the grandeur and splendour of the army, in the midst of seasoned warriors; stood young Okegbenle, a boy just coming into manhood, eager to prove the entire world wrong even if it cost him his life.` MEN OF LEOG!’ The king’s voice carried on through the hearts of all the men assembled. `WE ALL
REMEMBER THE SACRIFICE OUR PRINCE AND THE ELITE WARRIORS MADE IN ORDER THAT THIS DAY MAY NEVER COME!...’ Silence pervaded the whole arena. Even the crying women and snivelling children perched on the walls listened with rapt attention. It was only in one mind that doubt existed. It existed in the mind of young Okegbenle; he felt relieved that the king hadn’t noted to exempt his father. `BUT IT HAS COME AND AS MEN!’ The king continued, picking up from where he stopped. `MEN OF THE NORTHERN KINGDOM, WE’LL FACE IT SQUARELY. WE’RE NOT COWARDS! NO MAN OF LEOG IS A COWARD’. `Except one’ Okegbenle thought quietly to himself. `SO, LIKE THE MEN WE TRULY ARE, WE SHALL GO FORTH AND CONFRONT THE MONSTROSITY CALLED THE MEN OF XENDU HEAD ON AND THERE... WE SHALL SHOW THEM WHO THE MEN TRULY ARE...’ `EEEEEEEH!’ `EEEEEEEH!’ The soldiers of Leog chorused after their king. They departed amidst the rain of tears from the women and little children who cried without understanding what the tears was all about. .................................................................................................................................................... We left the main army behind few days into our march from the gates. Our commander was a general named Ore. Boli, he was called by all and sundry. Famed for his energetic personality and war conquests, in addition to this, he was humorous. Who amongst us hadn’t heard of Boli and the Lion of Leog in their younger days? The current king during his princely days had so many exploits with him on the battlefield. They were a popular and successful pair. The way he threw his whole body and being into a battle and how a battle could change form, when he changed mood was known by all. He was also loyal, especially to his friends. He looked jovial today, going around, cracking jokes, making merry and easing the tension around, as we stopped for a break before we began the ascent onto the Shere hills. `What would it be like to have such a man for a father?’ I wondered, remembering my favourite story of the general, the one in which he defeated dodo the usurper, a close bosom friend to he and the lion. Even the lion couldn’t bring himself to lift a finger against Dodo, but Boli killed all emotions like a true northerner and crushed him. `Boli sir!’ I saluted, as he passed by me. He turned to look back and smiled. Feeling pleased with myself, I settled down on the grass to my meal. ....................................................................................................................................................
CHAPTER 7 THWACK! Boro’s head bounced off and spattered blood on him. Retreat! Retreat! He ordered but they were still upon them. Thwang! He swerved to deflect another blow. Retreat! He screamed again. Only when he looked around did he realise that headless bodies couldn’t retreat. At that instant one of their swords men raced towards him. Dazed by what he saw around him the general was weakened in spirit and did nothing to deflect the coming blow that cut off his sword arm. The second hand reacted of its own will, but before it could do any damage, he was kicked so hard in the back, with so much intensity that he ate dust. He looked up and saw the enemy soldiers clearing a path for him to follow. As he walked, they all bowed. What a great brute he was. The general was roughly repositioned, so that he was kneeling as the emperor of Xendu came to him. `Anyone who opposes me shall die’ he said as he brought out his sword. The next thing the general saw before he was forcefully sent to the land beyond was his own headless body. Twenty thousand northern soldiers had been defeated and they hadn’t even lured an ant towards the kill zones designed by the war council. .................................................................................................................................................... `There’s been no scout come to tell us the progress of the advance regiment, your majesty’ a soldier reported to the king. `We move on as planned’ the king replied. .................................................................................................................................................... We were on the Shere hills for two days before we spotted the Xendu army coming forth. They were coming from far away and wouldn’t have been spotted on a normal day, but from the top of the Shere hills, we could see the dust they raised but saw no soldiers of the advance regiment coming upfront, luring them like it was supposed to be. They just moved at their own leisurely pace. We hadn’t received any message from the advance regiment. Now we could see the reason why. A scout was instantly sent to tell the horsemen of Leog that the men of Xendu were close. As the sunset on that day, we saw the dust being raised from afar by the horsemen of Leog, as they galloped. By dusk, the host of Xendu and Leog were close but the darkness prevented them from Seeing Eye to eye. Perched on the Shere hills, I could see both armies on both sides of the valley camped for the night but none of them could see the other yet. `It’s going to be a long night’, general Boli’s voice carried to me. I turned from the position where I was perched and was surprised to see him by my side. `Gen...er...al’ I stuttered, standing up immediately and trying to throw a hasty salute. So you’re Dimpka’s lad? Yes sir! I replied looking down at my feet. `I never could tell the
difference. Which are you?’ He asked. Okegbenle sir! I replied. `Okegbenle’, he said,` Go and grab some sleep, you need it. It’s a long night ahead’. `Perhaps my last’, I thought to myself, as I left the lookout ledge and climbed down to the velvety soft grass that adorned the flat side of the hill, to join the mass of bodies already sleeping. The next day, by daybreak, I was back on the ledge, crouched, hidden by the trees and greenery, watching and waiting. By noon, the two armies were getting closer to each other. When the sun was high up in the sky, gleaming off their armour, they came within eyesight of each other. And suddenly, they both stopped. Silence pervaded the entire area as the dust settled. Both armies paused, like rams about to battle observing each other and then launch! Leog was on the offensive first. From their frontlines a rain of arrows poured forth. Then an order was given to the men of Xendu and they fired their arrows too, returning arrow for arrow. I watched in shocked surprise, as some of their arrows passed clean through the arrows fired at them, splitting them into two. I never imagined that there could be archers more skilled than those of Leog. The rain of arrows continued for a few more minutes until both sides had exhausted their arrows. Then I watched as the archers of Leog slinked to the back and those of Xendu tossed away their quivers and brought out swords. Chaaaaarge! I heard the cry even from up here where I stood. It was livid, like a death cry. The men of Leog galloped forth as the men of xendu poured like ants. It was a sight to behold. They rammed into each other as the frontlines of both armies were broken amidst clanging of a hundred weapons. From up here where I was, I heard the sound of hundreds of weapons as they met and it strangely sounded like knives being sharpened. I saw humans dying and they reminded me of all the Cockroaches I had stepped on a million times over. They squirted blood, just the way those Cockroaches squirted their yellow sticky goo. The only difference was this time, I felt the pain of losing them. I identified with them as northerners. Stand up! Let’s go! A fellow soldier said, kicking me in the stomach. `The signal would come any moment from now’ he added. I stood up and climbed down to join the mass of men already descending the hill. Someone brushed my shoulders running upwards. I shouted after him, asking where he was running to but he only turned and glared angrily at me, pointing at his quiver. They were more of them rushing up. They were archers and they rushed to fill up all the ledges we were coming from. As we descended the hill slowly, I heard a shout; The red flag! The signal! The signal! We all picked up the chant, increased our pace and descended at a faster speed. `I don’t blame father for running away’, I thought to myself, amidst all the fracas, but then I felt ashamed of myself to think that way and strengthened my resolve. As we descended lower, the sound of the battle became clearer. I heard screams and the clear sound of metal scratching metal. I ran along with them, brandishing my sword as I joined in screaming a loud battle cry. We hit them from the side like a wave current hitting sand and broke through, blood splashing everywhere. I went on a rampage, cutting everything in my path. Then I heard a loud cry from the Shere hills, calling out to men of Leog to retreat. The arrows started flying from the archers positioned there. I looked towards the heel of Zubi and saw arrows flying from our archers there as well. We
pulled back having done our damage and let the archers perched on the Shere hills and the heel of Zubi do their work. A few minutes after, it was over. I looked around, dead men lay on the dusty plains, wet patches scattered everywhere, where blood had soaked the ground. All was quiet. Many men of Xendu lay dead, and a sizable amount of northern men and horses were sprawled on the dust too, immovable like stones...dead too. We stood there waiting. We didn’t wait for too long, as a few minutes after, we saw them. They were galloping on their horses, raising dust as they rode towards us. The main host of xendu. I stood and held my sword in a vice like grip. As soon as they were close enough, our archers started firing at will. Some of the men in their front line fell off their horses, the arrows having hit their targets. The rest rode on fearlessly. Then I heard a loud crack, and saw men dropping from the ledges. Another crack again and more men dropped as smoke filled the ledge where our archers were positioned. Then I saw clearly. Some of the rider less horses were still moving, they were pulling something, some sort of machinery that was making that noise, amidst a flash of white powder and killing our archers. As soon as it made the cracking noise, something would fly out of it and head straight for our men, exploding as soon as it touched the ledges where the archers crouched. They were men who stood behind them, aiming and loading it. No wonder their foot soldiers made it here before their horse men. They cut off whatever it was that attached that machinery to their horses and galloped forward at will, coming at us with ferocity. Chaaaaarge! I heard the command clearly from our ranks and I moved forward with soldiers as we ran. The whole army moved in one accord, with one mind and one set goal, to annihilate and I was part of that annihilation squad. My whole body moved in sync with me. I had trained my whole life to be like my father and always looked up to him until he was labelled a coward. I struck the first man in my way and turned in a circle, my sword slicing through a horse’s face as it neighed and upturned its rider, eventually stomping him to death. I stabbed the beast one more time, putting it out of its misery and removed my sword turning to face the next man by my side, ducking to weave his blow as I cut him from the midrib, separating his head from his body in a flash. My sword mainly swept around in circles to protect me, deflecting and countering with so much efficiency. I wasn’t a reckless fighter. The whole scene was gory, blood was everywhere and assorted human parts littered the floor but with this I still fought, my sword swinging, heads rolling, yellow men falling. Right here on this battlefield, the son of who I was didn’t matter. All that mattered was; I was my own man. I could see the king on his horse riding, like a wave among men. He scattered them, sword in one hand spear in the other. He was a colossus. He rode right through them all, dispersing them like flies until his sword was hooked by another. He looked into the enemy horseman’s eyes; it was their emperor, the emperor of Xendu. Turning right then I swung my sword, deflecting and countering a blow from an approaching enemy. In that instant, I glimpsed general Boli. He engaged five men at once, swinging two swords. In a marvellous display of acrobatic and wartime skill, he had all five of them headless within seconds. Making wild noises, he popped heads like palm wine gourds, running up and down and engaging the yellow men; Slamming one, stabbing the other, and decapitating the next. He was deadly. Suddenly at
that moment, I felt pain in my shoulder and felt the wetness of my own blood on my skin. I turned, slicing the perpetrator on the neck with my sword. He fell down, blood gushing out his wind pipes. I put my hand to my shoulder to feel the deepness of the wound. Thanks to my armour, it wasn’t too deep. At that exact moment, I felt serious pain on my cheeks. I looked up, my hands tightening on my sword once more. His spear had missed me by inches and I hadn’t even noticed it whizz past. Angered at missing, he had hit me with his bare hands, fingernails that hadn’t been cut for years. He somersaulted and I swung my sword madly but somehow he still managed to hit me on the face again. I staggered backwards, trying to see through the stars that dazed me. Those nails of his felt like claws. He picked up his spear and rushed at me again, making wild noises. He was fast, swinging the spear this way and that. It was all I could do, to keep up with his thrusts. He did another feint and dazed me again. I saw stars again and momentarily lost it swinging my sword wildly, as I tried to clear my vision. I closed my eyes and tried to blink away the blood. I felt cold steel on my face and reopened them quickly. As my vision cleared, I saw a helmeted northern soldier holding a double bladed axe against my skull. That was what prevented the spear from penetrating, else... I would have been dead. He pushed the spear away with his axe and before the yellow man could lift it up again, he had used his other hand to hack him on the neck with a second axe. As he fell, the soldier who saved my life turned to me and said ` I could tell it was you from that lame defensive style of yours.’ Ogedemgbe! I called out, recognising his voice, not caring what he was doing here or about the fact that he wasn’t supposed to be here. I was just thankful my younger brother had saved my life. At that instant, he knocked off his helmet and threw it at me. I ducked and was about to shout at what an expensive joke that was, when I realised that an arrow just whizzed by. I looked back. His helmet had connected with the face of the archer. He whizzed past me and was there in seconds, taking off the head of the momentarily dazed archer off its support. `Don’t let your guard down’ he screamed at me, as he engaged more foes. I turned and swung my sword this way and that, clearing a path towards him amidst the fracas of chaos. Soon we stood and fought back to back, as more and more northern men poured onto the battlefield, slowly but surely overwhelming the men of Xendu. `Where are they coming from?’ I asked him. As I fought, swinging my blade this way and that, countering the assaults coming from left and right, he replied `The heel of Zubi’. Swinging both his axes at the same time, I bent to duck as he did a complete 360 degrees spin, taking down three men. It was hard to believe he was just a boy. `I was there with them’ he added. The men of Xendu dwindled around us till there were none left. Then suddenly, I heard a loud crack and then the voice of the king shouting Retreat! Retreat! And then the crack noise again. We both rushed towards the sound of the voice to see what was happening, but then had to join all others in retreating. I looked back as we retreated; General Boli’s body laid a little way back; bleeding. A part of it had been blasted away, and about a quarter of his head was missing. Dead men and horses littered everywhere as we ran back, retreating in the face of the might of the Xendu Empire. Surprisingly they didn’t pursue us. They just stood there and watched us retreat. The look on their faces said otherwise; they were waiting for someone to give the
order for them to pursue us, but whoever that was didn’t give the order just yet. They all stood behind a big brute that placed his feet on general Boli’s mutilated head, his sword stuck in the body. `What happened?’ I asked the soldier standing right next to me, `I thought we were winning’. `That man, the great brute with his leg on general Boli’s head engaged our king, he said in a hurried fashion. `At first they fought on par matching each other strength for strength. Suddenly he gained the upper hand and was about to kill the king and general Boli stepped in. One of his soldiers saw the general stepping in and made use of that their strange weapon that makes a loud noise. It killed the general’ he said concluding his hurriedly summarized version of the event. `The king is still alive but seriously injured’ he added as an afterthought. Then suddenly I heard everyone gasping. `I can still fight’ I heard a voice say. `But your majesty you’re in no condition...’. `This fight is a fight to the death!’ the king screamed at the generals trying to hold him back. His face was pale. He picked up his sword and using one of the soldiers as support, got back to his feet. `WE FIGHT TO THE DEATH!’ He screamed. `EEEEEEEH!’ Everyone chorused in response, as we all turned back to face the slowly approaching enemy. I was injured, Ogedemgbe was injured, our king was injured. Almost all the men alive, plus those fresh from the heel of Zubi were injured in one way or the other. But we were injured physically but not in the spirit. Our number had dwindled considerably and those of Xendu seemed to keep swelling, but we didn’t care. We would be proud men to the very end. PREPEARE! Our injured king shouted, `FOR THIS COULD BE THE VERY END!’ I gripped my sword tightly and waited for the command, but it never came, for there standing between us and the approaching men of Xendu stood a man. He wasn’t even covered in armour. He looked back, straight into my eyes and Ogedemgbe tapped me at that exact same moment and shaking, I answered in a whisper, `yes I can see, it’s our father!’ .................................................................................................................................................... Panting, I congratulated myself. I had arrived just in time, to prevent my sons from being massacred right before my very eyes. From the corner of my eyes, I could see the widened shocked look of surprise written on the faces of all, especially the king. `No one should get in my way!’ I shouted from where I stood. `Who’s he?’ `What is he talking about?’ `There’s a bloody war going on here’ I could hear some men mumbling. It looked like they needed more persuasion. I knelt down and hit the wet ground with my hands, thinking the right thoughts. I could see the look on the faces of the approaching enemies as wood and trees spawned a really high impenetrable wall round the soldiers of Leog. I could hear the northern men trapped within screaming and asking what it was all about, banging on the wood with their weapons. I could also hear the voice of the king, as he calmly told them `it’s Dimpka’ and could imagine the look of disbelief on their faces as they looked at each other and wondered what a dead man was doing on a battlefield. I looked straight ahead, gazing right into his eyes, evil lurked in there, I was sure of it. He looked right back into mine not sure of who or what I was. Chaaaarge! He screamed. Kill him! He shouted after them, as he stood his ground and his soldiers rushed by him in waves to get to me. Father! I heard. It
was Ogedemgbe. I never could manage to keep that boy inside of anywhere since I had him. I wasn’t surprised that he had managed not to get himself trapped within like the others. I snapped my fingers and he was surrounded by wood. Indestructible wood. I heard his muffled shouts, as he struggled for air to breathe within the wood surrounding him. I closed my eyes and reopened them, having done the deed. He was settled. I reached out to the scabbard that hung on my back and wrapped my fingers around the hilt of my sword. As soon as my fingers touched it, I went back to that day, I remembered clearly; I had been running for miles before I got there. Panting I had stared down in disbelief. I turned to the two ghosts standing next to me, as they looked on approvingly. `So you bring me all this way’, I said, staring amazedly at them, `you make me travel over the length and breadth of Africa to dig up a wooden sword, a child’s plaything’. They looked at each other and laughed. It had sounded eerie to my ears. `What is he but a mortal? Bebe’s ghost said to Oduduwa’s. `This was my weapon when I lived’, Oduduwa had said, turning to face me. `It is the greatest ever forged in Africa. Its history is as old as that of the world. Forged during the young age of the gods under the fires of Okija, it was made from the strongest element in the whole of Africa’. `Are you both pulling my legs?’ I asked, feeling gullible and thinking both ghosts were trying to play me a dead prank. I looked at their faces as Bebe tried his best to wear a solemn look and continue from where Oduduwa left off. `This sword is fabled; it was hidden by the second prince after the departure of the first because of its devastating power. It is the most powerful elemental conductor ever forged... fit for a god. `What did you call it’ I asked Oduduwa, as I picked it up and had my first feel of it. `I called it one blow seven die’. He replied. `One blow seven die.’ Oduduwa’s words rummaged in my brain on the battlefield, as my hands closed completely around it. It was stronger than metal, smoother than silk, darker than ebony and sharper than fangs. I ungilded the elemental conducting sword and pulled it out. It caught the gleam of the sunshine as it eased out of its scabbard. They didn’t know what they were in for, I thought to myself and smiled, and the idiot from far away, he smiled back at me. The wood obeyed my thoughts, forming renewable armour of wood around my body. I started walking, my steps increasing in pace as I moved further, till I was running. I raised the sword high above my head and just before I made impact with the first group of approaching soldiers, I heard his voice screaming` Father!’ Again. That boy, he was too stubborn, but there was no way he could escape where I kept him, I was sure of that and banished all thoughts of him from my mind. After all, I was doing it for them. I was already in this too much to turn back. GBAM! That was the sound that was made as seven soldiers flew backwards from the impact of my sword. `No wonder he called it that’, I wondered to myself and smiled. The sword was really living up to its name. It was like an assistant that helped one in focusing energy. Tree branches were sprouting from the ground and twisting everywhere, hindering the enemy as I ducked, struck, ducked and struck again, men of Xendu flying all around me like I was some sort of whirlwind, broken blades lying scattered in my wake. This was judgement...my judgement.
.................................................................................................................................................... In my wake stood destruction, destruction looking like a wild miniature forest of human parts, as every single part of the human body including the intestines littered the ground. There was no free space to stand as dead men formed a carpet of mass bodies on the ground. I looked up as I pulled out my sword from the belly of the last one I killed and saw fear written upon his face, their huge emperor. He had called on them to retreat. He hadn’t accounted for someone like me being in the equation. He had stopped the men from attacking, seeing that I was making piecemeal of them. About a hundred thousand had died by my blade, he had about two hundred thousand more behind him, I estimated. I stood and pointed my sword towards him, defiant in my stance. He stood and as slowly and surely like flowing water, wiped off all traces of fear on his face. He looked at me and I thought his eyes flashed purple for a moment, but it was just a figment of my imagination or so I thought. Chaaaaaaarge! He ordered again and ran ahead, leading his soldiers in their charge towards me. I stood my ground as his sword hit mine. I felt the strong vibrations travel up my strained muscles. It took all my will power to prevent me from dropping my weapon. It felt like ten men had hit me at once. The tree branches that I spawned around me prevented any of his other soldiers from getting through to me, but he... seemed unstoppable, cutting through and loosening himself from their grasps like they were cloth threads. He kept coming at me like a raging bull. I couldn’t even counter his attacks, his brute strength was just too much. Again and again he came at me and his weapon came close to searing my skull. Soon I wasn’t dealing with only him as the rest of the army having caught up on his tactics, joined in the death play. I turned this way and that, sweeping them off their feet as I swung this way and that, at the same time keeping an eye out for the great brute’s attacks. It was when I turned to decapitate two soldiers running at me from behind that he caught me from behind with a kick. The force and power packed into that kick overwhelmed me and I hit the ground, causing a small depression. They all came at me at once, converging on me with their swords. Enraged, I jumped, scattering hundreds of them into the air, as I spawned branches with which I successfully swung myself until I landed right in front of the impenetrable wall I had erected to guard the soldiers of Leog. My mind went back to what Oduduwa told me; `what I’m about to teach you must only be used in extreme circumstances. It is double edged and would harm you just as much as it would harm your foe’ he said. How? I had remembered asking. `It would slowly but surely drain your life force’ he had answered with a tone of finality in his voice. I had no choice here, he was too strong, I still couldn’t believe a mortal man could be that strong. None amongst the northerners had managed to put a scratch on him; there must be surely something out of the ordinary about him. Standing in front of the wall I had created, I pointed my sword at them as they approached and closed my eyes, focusing on thinking the right thoughts to enter the immortal level two. I wasn’t an Immortal but I was like them; similar to them in ways I didn’t understand. I knew my life force was draining but I had no choice.
.................................................................................................................................................... From inside where I crouched, the small wooden dome where he trapped me, I peeped at the battle taking place in front of me. I felt like a bird in cage, trapped, but I could move around a little. Small holes made by him after I screamed for lack of air ensured that I stayed alive but remained trapped. It was through these holes that I peeped. I wasn’t even old enough to be in the army yet, but since I was here, I might as well make the best use of it. I wasn’t still sure if it was my father, it looked like him all right, but he was acting funny and I didn’t understand this wooden aspect of him at all. My mouth was still hanging wide open. I had just watched him kill a hundred thousand men with a single blade. I didn’t know what to believe anymore, considering the fact that I had watched my father executed and he was out here on this battlefield right now. Peeping through again I saw him close his eyes and from here I felt the tension as it built around him. Then suddenly he opened them and looked back. In alarm I moved back from the hole I was peeping through. It was like he looked into my very soul from where he stood. `Where was the line between sanity and insanity?’ His eyes were brown, his sin looked toughened and hardened like a tree bark where armour did not cover and the air around him tensed, I could feel it from where I was. I peeped again through the hole; his sword was stuck into the ground and he was mumbling some incantations, gesturing to the east, west, south and north as he did so. Then the whole ground shook terribly like a tremor was happening and the trees flanking the forest plains began to move. They moved and didn’t stop until they stood behind him... my father. This was something else, fear struck my heart as the spectacle that was taking place before my eyes artistically unfolded. He had truly returned from the land of the dead. That was the only explanation my head would give me at that time. As I gazed at the wonderful spectacle out of another world happening right before me, I, the ever bubbly, always talking Ogedemgbe was silent, perhaps for the first time in my life. .................................................................................................................................................... `Desperate situations require desperate measures’ I thought to myself, as I gazed at the spirits of my comrades that I had brought back from the dead and bound to trees. Two thousand nine hundred and ninety nine elite warriors stood before me. We were all but complete, except for Akpoti. The enemies had paused mid way in their assault, retreating as they saw the trees moving. `Why have you summoned us?’ One of the trees asked in a gruffly voice. It was Shile, I could see his face carved on the bark of tree. He had always been a complainant, even while he was alive. I didn’t have time for that now, I had to convince them in the little space of time between now and when those soldiers would get over their fear and resume their assault. I couldn’t beat them on my own, not if he was fighting with them. `Please!’ I appealed to them, `I know I have done something bad by disturbing your peaceful sleep, but it is the same thing that put you to your early sleep that makes me call you forth. Everything we fought for, everything we died for is at stake’. `We are no longer in the land of the living’, Shile said, protesting again. `Why should we be bothered?’ `Unlike
you’ I replied, `some of us had families, some of us had wives, others had children. Has living in the land of the dead also killed your emotions? Warriors of Leog! Even in death, let us show them that we are a force to be reckoned with’. `We cannot...’ ` Shile’, Oro said, interrupting the complainant. `Dimpka is right’. He said in a deeply ruffled voice. `He is alive and must have had a choice of running away and living. But he chose to stay here and fight with his life. Now, if these people are such that he cannot handle on his own, I see no reason why we shouldn’t help him out, after all that is what comrades are for’. `True talk Oro’, I heard other deeply ruffled and muffled voices chirping in, `Where are they?’ some other voices asked. `Point out the way and let’s go there!’ Others screamed. `BOOM!’ I put my hands over my ears to block out the terrible noise. Wood splinters flew everywhere as some of the trees caught fire. `It has started’ I said. `let’s go there!’ Oro said, turning and taking the lead, as the rest of the trees wobbled after him. More cracking noises filled the air as the men of Xendu fired their latest weapon again and again, but the warriors of Leog even when alive, were not small game. Some of the trees fell and others caught fire, but that was just a small minority, as the rest of us continued undaunted towards the men of Xendu. We were all complete, except for our prince, Akpoti. I stood there, watching them wobble towards the men of Xendu. I stood and I watched. I wished I could talk to them; Bebe and Oduduwa, but whenever I was like this, I couldn’t see them. Whenever my adrenaline pumped, I become unstable and even though they might be there, I couldn’t see nor hear them. Father? I heard and turned to see where the voice was coming from. Why did you do this to yourself? It was the voice of Ogedemgbe my son but it was laced with fear. I felt bad that he was scared of me. I walked towards where I had trapped him for his own safety and peered into the hole from which he peeped out and replied him; `I’m doing this for you and your brother’. Every part of me wanted to stay there with him, question him and find out how they had been faring, what new things were going on with their lives, see him and hold him in my arms and see how much they had grown but alas I couldn’t, I still had a battle to finish. `I have to go’ I told him and turned away. `Don’t go’ he called out after me, as I ran to catch up with my comrades. Tears were streaming down my cheeks, I felt sad; I had been deprived of happiness with my sons and I wasn’t sure I would make it out alive. I had to do what I had to do. I kept running in between them, jumping this way and that until I was at their front, running into battle with the trees at my back. I let him see me and my emotions so that he could know I was the one behind this. Wham! That was how it sounded, as I clashed with his front line and they all perished at the might of my sword. Branches materialised out of the ground, sharpened to perfection like spears, piercing Xendu soldiers on their legs as they ran towards me, killing some and tripping the others. More branches materialised out of the ground, to keep his soldiers away from me. That was the power of the level two, anything I didn’t want to touch me, couldn’t touch me. I kept running faster, having spotted him. Some of his soldiers immediately ran forward, knowing he was my target, wanting to keep me away from him. I jumped, sailing clean over them, arms spread eagle as I held my sword and landed with a death blow meant
for him, which he blocked and countered with his sword. I moved back a few feet not believing my eyes. The impact of that attack had caused a depression in the ground and yet he withstood it? What was he? I thought I saw his eyes flash purple again as he headed towards me, but again I dismissed it as a figment of my imagination. I thought the right thoughts and willed wood to grow around us as I saw some of his men that I had bypassed running towards us. Now, we were trapped and both alone. He headed towards me and this time we sparred, our weapons making loud clanging noises as we both tried to seize the upper hand. This was no ordinary fight. Bringing up my sword, I swished it and he countered. `Who are you?’ He asked, pushing me back with strength I deemed impossible as we both stood panting. `The question is what are you?’ I fired back, rushing towards him again with my sword as I attempted to cut him with ferocity found only in wild animals. I am Genghis khan, he said, as we sparred again, our weapons clashing together again. I rushed towards him, after being pushed back for the fourteenth time, this time around doing a feint here and a feint there as I turned and bent, twisting my weapon as it slashed him in the neck. He held the spot where I slashed him with his free hand and brought it up to his eye level, seeing his own blood. He looked at me again and I thought his eyes flashed purple. He rushed at me, but I was fast, twisting this way and that as I swung my sword madly, trying to deflect his wild attacks.` A mere mortal can’t be this strong’, he said as I countered one of his blows again. I moved quickly and in another suave move sliced him on the cheek. I stood up, recovering from the spin I just did. I could still hear the battle cries of the fighting going on around us. It wasn’t clear who had the upper hand as of then, but I as sure as chaos could hear men screaming their death screams and could hear the wheezing noises that trees made when their branches were swung by the wind. I also could hear the sound of their weapon as it went off in multiple cracks, sounding like thunder storm. He ran towards me and did a feint, I bent backwards doing an iron bender, picking dust with my sword as I swung it at him full in the face. He shifted backwards, as the dust entered his eyes and my sword tore him on the second cheek. He struck at me again and I deflected it, but he wasn’t to be outdone as with his second hand he brandished a dagger. As I side stepped to dodge it, he swung his other arm with the sword and hit home, it didn’t go deep, it only affected the armour. I pushed him back with wood I hurriedly spawned, and jumped after him slicing and tearing away at him. He hit the ground amidst a cloud of dust and laughed as blood dripped from his mouth. `I think you’re fit to see my wrath’ he said and then was gone. He just simply disappeared. I turned around looking for him within that small enclosure I had constructed and suddenly; Wham! He hit me on the head from above with his sword sending me flying backwards. I looked at him, he looked different. He seemed to me like his skin, the one that was visible amidst all the covering of the armour was blacker than mine and somewhat scaly, and his eyes, they were blinking a bright purple. So I wasn’t hallucinating all those moments when I had seen a flash of purple in his eyes. But what was he? Another Immortal? I can see the amazement in your eyes, he said to me. You beat a man senseless and he’s still standing in front of you, stronger. It is expected for I am the product of the white doe and Yesugei, the grey wolf of Mongol. Are you an immortal? I
asked. `You insult me’ he said as he walked towards me slowly, `by comparing me to such scum as my mother’s servants’. He jumped. His sword raised high, I stood my ground and steadied my blade with my two arms waiting to deflect his blow. I did but the impact sent me flying backwards, I hit the walls I had erected myself, fell on the ground and kissed dust. I heard a cracking noise and stared at my arm in horror as I noticed my armour peeling off. He seemed twice as strong already and now these to add to my already compounding problems. It was turning a sickly colour and slowly caked away, as I got back up to my feet. `So I guessed right, it’s a living armour after all’, he said rushing towards me as I tried hard to follow his sword movements, I swung and twisted my sword this way and that, succeeding but also receiving a few cuts here and there. He was too strong and fast to keep up with. I pushed him backwards with fresh wood I spawned and gasped for breath. He laughed from where he was and before my very eyes the wood that held him down began to wither. Then it became clear to me and I panicked. He killed my armour with it , it was no wonder I wasn’t able to catch him. Now he was going to kill me too with it; His poison. He laughed at the look on my face knowing that I finally understood what was happening. I looked at him, from his eyes to the exposed skin, and his sword, it was clear as daylight, he dripped of it, poison. If I calculated correctly, I had but a few minutes left to live. He rushed at me again, with glee in his face, I was easy game for him now, a fly trapped in the web of the spider, a web that I had unwittingly helped to weave.
`Your majesty prince Akpoti, I’ve come to realise that I’m just a mere mortal used as bait
to keep you out of danger. If we keep seeking the truth, one day it will find us, even in death. You were the epitome of all I wanted to be, I looked up to you, I wanted to be like you, and your courage more than anything else, was what inspired me to walk down the path of the warrior and lay down my life selflessly for the kingdom. I don’t want to believe that all that is now in the past, but it seems that is the way things really are. You’re a shadow of your former self, in simple terms what your father labelled me before condemning me to death...a coward. The bodies of our comrades shall turn in their shallow graves if they knew what you were doing with the gift of their mass sacrifice. At least, if you didn’t think of the kingdom, consider your father. And if you couldn’t consider him, you should have considered what you meant to a lot of people especially the northerners. And if you couldn’t, you should have spared a thought for the unborn generation. `Death or cowardice’, our people used to say, `death is better than cowardice’, you used to say. I see no truth for me in those words anymore. I chose my path now, free from the influence of you and our people; know that I choose it, from the love that exists in my heart. You were once the man I looked up to, but that is no more. I owe neither you nor your princess an obligation to meet with her. I owe Leog nothing too, for who am I to protect her when even her only prince abandons her in her direst hour of need? There are some things my prince, in this world that matter more than power, wealth or position, like love, family and a good name and I believe I was fortunate to have known, had and used all those things. I forever remain the man that I am. Dimpka. ’ `That was what the message he left for me contained, those were his last words for me’ he thought, as he fell from the sky, interlocked in a death embrace with the powerful Immortal; Timi. They kept falling, holding each other’s throats and Dimpka’s last words kept repeating themselves in his mind. He didn’t want to, he knew the price for interfering in mortal affairs but right now falling from the sky with the vile Immortal who had come to seek him out, to take Vengeance for his comrades that he killed, he had reached the moment of decision. He was ready to pay the price. He closed his eyes as they fell amidst swirling clouds and summoned a realm familiar only to the gods. The realm called the footpath. It lead anywhere the summoned wanted it to. They kept falling, but this time to the raging battle below, they had not been there a moment before. They fell like a meteor come out of the sky and as soon as they hit the ground, their impact was felt by all including the dead men. ....................................................................................................................................................
From where I was, overpowered by Genghis khan, flailing on the ground and trapped with nowhere to run, I couldn’t think clearly. He walked towards me, radiating confidence. `When you are eating, your appetite grows’ he said as he held his sword in one arm, ready to strike the finishing blow to my heart. I was weak and beaten to a pathetic state. He was mortal, but stronger than any immortal I had ever seen. As he bent to strike the blow, an earthquake occurred, throwing him backwards as the walls I erected starting with the one we were enclosed in started to collapse. `I feel my mother’s presence. Perhaps she has come to join me, just like she promised, at the threshold of my victory’. `Why are you doing this?’ I asked. `Man’s greatest good fortune is to chase and defeat his enemy, seize his total possessions, leave his married women weeping and wailing, ride his gelding, use the bodies of his women as night shirt and support’ he replied .Then he blabbered on about his mother, the goddess and how they would rape, massacre and ravage Africa together. It gave me a chance to think and I remembered the last thing Oduduwa taught me. It was going to kill me, but I had no choice, it was either I died from poison, his blade or have my revenge on him and still died. Either way, I was going to die. I sighed, bemoaning my fate, the fate of an unfortunate mortal. `Elemental take over’, I whispered, focusing all my energy just like Oduduwa described it, into becoming one with the element, letting it take over me and releasing the focused energy at exactly the right moment, five seconds after focusing. I closed my eyes, as the blast that emanated from my elemental takeover, tore away the rest of the walls still standing and sent everything around me flying. .................................................................................................................................................... They stood up from the large crater they had both made in the ground and looked at each other, the bad blood between them boiling even hotter now that they were just a few meters apart. The fall hadn’t dampened their spirits one bit. One was a very strong Immortal, the other was a newly born god who hadn’t yet come into his own. They looked at each other with venomous hate in their eyes. Then the immortal laughed; `Pleased to meet you your godliness or to put more respectfully, your ironliness. Most gods I know don’t use the footpath. You must be a very weak one indeed’. `What am I but a man?’ Akpoti replied, his face twitching, as he answered to the taunt. He had quickly taken in the situation, and knew the elite were around albeit not in person. `Dimpka must be really strong to have done this’ he had thought to himself. `This is the least I can do’, he thought silently as his face still twitching, he remembered what the princess had told him; `don’t ever forget the price of interference in mortal affairs without being solicited for’. He had received no sacrifices or oblations, they didn’t even know he existed, but he had to help them. He summoned metal from the ground, casting it as armour on the wooden trees. Then with his ability as a god, he communicated to all the spirits at once, apologising to them in these words; ` I’m sorry I couldn’t be here with you, but please let me be your
armour.’ Having done this, he turned his attention back to Timi and bound him with metal. He had caught him off guard when he had entered level two in Tedape and blasted them both into the sky, but he wouldn’t get that chance again, not now that he had crossed the line. `That trick won’t work on me twice’ Timi screamed. Not stopping there, he went further and invoked screaming `ELEMENTAL TAKEOVER!’ The metal was blasted to pieces as his element took over. `Then this will’, Akpoti said in a calm voice. `You’re just an immortal and I a god and no matter how young I may be, the gap in our powers remains clear’. `Let the iron be my hands’, he invokes, `eternal melody of Immortalia, be my feet, brown dust of Africa from whence golden energy swirls, part of that dust I am, only that I fan it as well, face the eternal wrath of the iron god, I curse you into the cage of infinity’. `Is he really a god’ Timi wondered as he screamed, `ARA SAN!’ Akpoti’s curse opens a golden warp and traps Timi within, but with his consciousness absent to direct the big mass of cackling lightening energy, it flies past Akpoti, heading straight for Leog at the speed of light. Akpoti looks and understands what was about to happen, immediately he invokes; `metal arm of the iron god, shimmering in light, shimmering in darkness, my immortal cloak as thy foundation, my body be thy shield!’. .................................................................................................................................................... Ten thousand soldiers left behind to guard the kingdom stood and shivered as they heard the approaching noise. It sounded like a thousand birds chirping. They didn’t know what to make of it. Nonetheless, each of them put their hands on their weapons and grasped it tight as the clouds over head darkened. Then suddenly metal springing out of nowhere suddenly started to build around the city at a speed that can only be compared to that of teleportation. Words cannot begin to describe the horror they felt as they discovered that they had been locked out of their city. By whom or what? They couldn’t say. In fright they rushed at the solid metal building around their beloved kingdom. At that instant they saw something else. The sight of that big mass of lightening headed towards them made even the most stone hearted man amongst them run for cover like frightened children. It headed towards the city and was completely absorbed by the metal covering the city in a bright flash of light, smoke and thundering noise. Then in moments, just like it started, it was over. The metal disappeared with the same speed it had appeared and the men raised their heads to view their beloved city. From where they stood, as soon as they set their eyes on the city, they bent their heads. They had been powerless against this. How would they explain it? The city would never be the same again. .................................................................................................................................................... Akpoti stood on his knees gasping for breath. He had succeeded but albeit at a huge cost. He had sacrificed his body to prevent the complete destruction of Leog. A part of it had been destroyed, but he knew they would recover with time. He stood and looked towards where Dimpka Diopa stood, in his elemental form. That man...if his generation were anything like him, they were the only hope for mortal Africans. He knew that. The wind
started blowing and his weakened body started to disintegrate, diffusing into the air. He looked up to the sky and looked towards Dimpka one last time, before he completely dissolved, mouthing the words; `I’m sorry.’ .................................................................................................................................................... We had paused our fighting to stare at what was happening around us. It was amazing, we were gaining the upper hand. I watched as the trees got fitted with armour and marched onwards towards the men of Xendu, withstanding the strange booming weapon thanks to the armour. And then I heard his voice, `I’m sorry I couldn’t be with you but please let me be your armour.’ There was nothing to stop them now. I looked back towards Genghis and smiled. I was like a small forest hanging in the air, suspended from everywhere with branches. `Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that frightens us the most’ I said to him. He looked at me, the fear evident in those purple eyes of his. I was going to die but I was going to take him along with me. IGI YAPA! I screamed not even knowing what I was saying. It was just like Oduduwa had described, the element takes over completely and does your bidding. `Nobody knows how powerful he’ll be in his element, until it actually takes over’ Oduduwa had said. The only thing I could remember was my consciousness directing the element to kill the man and another voice from faraway screaming ARA SAN! The element was a separate entity on its own and it warned me that it would exact exactly the same measure of pain it would inflict upon him back on me. I agreed and remembered Oduduwa’s words again. `That is where immortality comes in’, he had explained to me, `when one does the elemental takeover, the Immortal stamina helps one to withstand even the pain of death. The pain inflicted to kill is inflicted back on oneself’. For a mortal like me it meant instant death. `You kill who you want to kill and die, he had added. `For an immortal who can’t die, he is weakened beyond measure and is rendered helpless till he can rest and resuscitate. A really strong immortal would withstand two elemental takeovers before he can feel it’ I had remembered him concluding. I looked on like a spectator as a forest sprung around Genghis khan and wood sharpened to perfection pierced him everywhere including his armour, shattering it to pieces. They just kept on piercing, not stopping for a moment. He let out blood curdling screams as holes rapidly began to appear all over his body and wood pierced him here and there. I watched in silence like a spirit, knowing I was going to have to go through the same thing. Moments after, it stopped and mine began. Before I fell down on the floor and started screaming from the fast excruciating pain, I heard the sound of his voice, warrior prince Akpoti whispering in my ears `I’m sorry.’ Exhausted I fell to the ground, my whole armour peeled off slowly after that. I was worse off than Timi when he used it, but I had succeeded. I had protected my sons. I could hear the victory cries of the northern soldiers as they moved in to join in the kill. My walls had collapsed, I was sure of it. I felt the effect of the poison spreading through my body. I didn’t know which was going to kill me first, the pain or the poison. I looked at him, he lay lifeless
where he was. Just as I slipped slowly away from the pain, into the comfortable blackness, I heard footsteps and from the little hole within the blackness, I saw my son Ogedemgbe peering at me. He was by my side, holding me, calling out and pleading `father, please don’t go! Father! I felt his tears falling on my face and for him, I chose to endure a few more seconds of that pain. I fought against the blackness with all my will and opened my eyes, once more feeling the paralyzing pain. `Ogedemgbe’ I managed to mutter. `I want you to have this’ I said, pointing to my sword; the wooden sword that lay next to me. `And give this to your brother’ I said, shaking violently as I lifted my hands amidst the spine breaking pain racking my body and pointed to the golden chain on my chest. `Take care of your brother and mother. Be strong at heart’. `Father, please don’t go! Stay with us!’ I heard him wail, as the darkness closed around me completely. The last thought on my mind, before I totally succumbed to the welcoming blackness was; my time was past and theirs had come. I was going home. .................................................................................................................................................... Mother, why did you come so late? He asked, as she bent and touched him and his seemingly lifeless body reacted sluggishly to her touch, turning to face her. Time was frozen and just son and mother talked within the frozen time continuum. What happened? The white doe asked in that gentle voice of hers. `Mother’, he rasped, `I’m dying, I don’t want to die here. I don’t want to die yet, please help me’. `I’m sorry my son’ she said, apologising as she cuddled him in her laps. `I should have been here sooner for you. I was prevented from coming here’. `Can you heal me?’ he asked, gasping for breaths of air as his voice came out in rushes. `I’m so sorry’ she said, as tears fell down from her eyes onto his blood soaked body. `I can’t do anything within her domain, the best I can do is get you out of her jurisdiction and by the heavens hope that you remain alive until then. My presence here alone puts a lot at risk. I hope you can forgive me’. `Forgive me too, mother’, he whispered, `for failing you. He was too strong, I never expected to see anything like him. I can’t make it he rasped, `I’ve lost too much blood already. Please get me out of this place, to die someplace else. The stink of my defeat hangs around heavily, and it saddens me’. She bends down and carries him in her arms, the way one carries a baby. `Before we go’, he rasped again,` I just want to know, who is she? Who could possibly be powerful enough to prevent you from getting here on time?’ `The queen of this realm’ she whispered to him, like a mother singing a lullaby to her baby. `Shakur. She is the strongest god in existence and this is her domain. I trespassed, coming here to meet you. If I’m caught, she could kill me’. `Now, I understand the saying that one day, even conquerors will be conquered. Death conquers all’ Genghis khan said, as he breathed his last. Walking forward with her son in her arms, she disappeared, going back to whence she came from. None would ever know he had died in Africa. She would set up something, make it look like he had fallen off his horse and died. None would know about this humiliating defeat of his in Africa, she would erase it from all of history. None, most of all, would know the truth, so that his sons; her grandsons... could carry on where he had stopped.
.................................................................................................................................................... NOOOOO! FATHER!!! NOOOO! Come back, please come back! Fa...th...er... Ogedemgbe wailed, as he bent over the dead body of his father Dimpka, crying out the pain in his heart. Men stood around the corpse of Dimpka, bowing their heads and paying homage to this great northerner who had conquered death and come back again, to die for Leog. Okegbenle came running and broke through the crowd till he got to his father’s body. He sniffed, trying to hold back the tears, but the sight was too much for him to bear. Looking upon his father’s face, he remembered the caring man who had carried him as a kid, taught him how to shoot a catapult, the man who bought his first wooden sword for him and showed him how to form a stance. The man who had brought him home, when he fell down and broke his leg, the man who had always smiled at him and promised to come back, anytime he departed for war. He remembered the man not as a warrior but as his father. Now he saw him lying lifeless, his body soaked in his own blood. He let out a large wail throwing all manly composure to the wind, as he let out the pain in his heart. He felt bad he had ever thought disapprovingly of his father and he mouthed the words `I’m sorry’ to no one in particular. `How could he ever have doubted this man?’ He asked himself again and again, as he bent over the body and cried. The men encircling the body of Dimpka cleared to one side to allow the king pass through. He saw the sad spectacle before him and couldn’t take another step forward, he couldn’t even look Dimpka’s boys in the eyes, not after what he did to their father. He turned back and walked away from it all. He walked until he was far away from it all. There was no explanation for what had happened. They had won but at what price? He wished he hadn’t lived to see the aftermath. Men’s bodies littered the plains for as far as he could see with his eyes. It was raining lightly, but it couldn’t wash away the king’s sorrow. Tears escaped his eyes as he thought about the events of the day. Boli had died to save him. He had really wanted to die, so that he could join them, Akpoti and his beloved Lolli, but alas he was alive to face this bitter times after war. He gnashed his teeth and cried the more, biting his fingers. At that moment, he was the saddest king in the world. When a king of Leog rode, he was supposed to die in battle. That was how it had always been. It was a bad omen. A king must never stain his hands with blood of the battlefield, and when he did, he never lived to see his kingdom again. All the rough life was supposed to be lived during the princely days. A king riding into battle spelt doom for the kingdom, and more so, for a kingdom without a prince. All the kings that had ridden into battle in the history of Leog had never come back alive; some had won, others had lost, but none had come back alive yet. `Why was his case any different?’ he wondered. `Why had the gods spared him?’ He had watched everybody that mattered in his life die before his very eyes; His wife, his son, his friends, every single one of them. His sorrow knew no bounds. Your majesty! He heard. He looked up at one of the soldiers with his tear stained eyes. `I asked to be left alone’ he said to him. `Even in times of sorrow, a king never fails to recognise his prince. So father, you can’t even recognise me again, has it been so long?’ He fell off the log of wood he was sitting on in
shock and looked on, as the face of the guard before him twisted horribly and took the shape of his son’s head and face. `What is this?’ The king asked. Visibly frightened, he tried to maintain a measure of control over his emotions. `The human life is short, but it burns a fiery path, leaving its mark for the world to see. Dimpka never died, father, not until now’ the strange apparition with his son’s face, said to him. `Who are you?’ The king asked in a voice shaken by fear. `My son died years ago’. `It’s me Akpoti. I’m supposed to be dead but I’m not, it is a long story...one that I cannot tell’. `Then why have you come back?’ The king asked from the ground, making sure to keep a safe distance. `I didn’t come back because of you, I didn’t come back because of them or the kingdom either. I came back because through his love and selfless sacrifice for his sons, it made me see that I ought to come back too and do what I can, towards making sure my child gets a better life’. `Your child?’ The king asked in amazement. `Akpoti never had a child, what are you talking about’. `Nina of the palace maids’ he replied. `She was heavy with my child before I departed for the Fulon pass’. `Nina was like a mother to Akpoti, he would never do that to her’ the king screamed. `Which is why I had her keep it secret’ he added. `It would have been a huge scandal. `You’re a liar’ the king said. `You’re not my son’. `Don’t you get it, I’m Akpoti’ the strange apparition repeated. `You’re not my son’ the king said once again. `My son is dead. He was a heroic prince who died to protect his kingdom. If for any reason he survived, he would have come back to us. He loved the kingdom too much’. `Even if he became a god?’ The voice asked in a whisper. `Remember this father’ he continued. `The true hero is Dimpka. I only destroyed my essence to save the kingdom, but he gave his life to save the people. When you get back to Leog and you confirm all I have said, have them construct an altar to me; the iron god and tell my child about me... one day, when I regain my essence, I shall return’ he said before collapsing, falling down face first. `Wait! Wait!’ The king said, as he rushed to the body and turned it upwards. The face was different; it was the face of a soldier he had seen alive a few moments before, the soldier was dead. `It was a boy’ the king whispered. `I’ve seen him. It was a son you had, Akpoti’. The sad spirit stood close by and turned slowly to depart on the wings of the wind. It was Akpoti, he had lost his human essence and would have to predate upon humans to live. He would have to inhabit the bodies of others, and devour their essence. His first victim was that soldier and he hadn’t lasted. At least he had passed the message across to his father. It was time to move on. He knew the princess wouldn’t want him back, he had disobeyed her and lost his essence. According to the godlore written by Osasuwa’s hand, the essence is what makes a god and any who loses it falls out of godhood. He didn’t know why but he was still a god. But then, he wasn’t just any god, he was the iron god after all. All would believe he had fallen, but he knew better. His powers were still intact but alas he was a god without a body, without a form. Now all he had to do was begin the slow long journey of finding the perfect essence. Until then, he wouldn’t return to this part of Africa. ....................................................................................................................................................
Chapter 9 It was days before what remained of the northern soldiers got back to Leog. The king rode on the only available horse, the only horse out of more than seventy thousand horses that had survived the harsh battle. Even then, it was a Xendu horse. `They’ve come!’ they’ve come!’ the lookout on the wall screamed. `They’re back!’ All the men wore sullen faces, they numbered about ten thousand. The gates were opened and the men with the mat marched on in first. All the soldiers bowed thinking it was the king and he had died in battle. Then after them the king marched in, on a horse. The commotion that stirred was like that of a beehive. `What had happened?’ The soldiers left behind to guard the city asked each other. `Who could that be if it wasn’t the king?’ they all asked themselves, wondering who in death was so important that he alone was carried back all the way from the battlefield and was brought in before the king. Finally all the men entered, and the gates were shut. The soldiers came in, both the injured and able bodied and saw their city devastated. The king was speechless and struck dumb by the sight before him. He came down from the horse, fell on the ground, bowed his head and cried. Crying out loud, he looked up to the skies and asked the gods `why?’ .................................................................................................................................................... `We can’t deny the fact that we do not understand everything that happened. Up till now I’m still dumbfounded’ the king said as he stood in the city square addressing all the people. He stood in front of an elaborately designed mat on which Dimpka’s body was laid. `I sentenced him to death for betraying his own comrades’ the king said, looking down, `he didn’t die but rather than escape and live, he came back to save us all. None of us knows what really happened or understands how Dimpka gained the strength to do what he did. We do not know if he consorted the gods or not, but one thing remains clear, he was a true northern warrior at heart, till the very end. A survivor who refused to die and came back to prove us wrong. A warrior that deserves all the honour this kingdom can give. Today we stand around his corpse, alive, because of his selfless sacrifice. We owe our very existence to him. He lost the battle for his life, to ensure that we keep ours. He is beyond bravery, beyond honour, beyond words... he is indeed the mightiest warrior ever to come out from the northern lands. He is the greatest northerner that ever lived’ the king said, as he knelt and bowed in respect in front of Dimpka’s lifeless body. Everyone around does the same, as four men from behind the king go forward and cover him up in the mat, lifting him up gently as they lower him into the grave they dug. ....................................................................................................................................................
`He died a great man, like a true warrior’ the town crier cried. I consoled myself as I sobbed, holding my younger brother’s hands in mine as we watched our father’s body laid into the ground. Ogedemgbe squeezed my hands again. We had been crying since the day we won the war. We had arrived Leog only to hear the sad news that our mother had died along with thousands of others in the lightening storm that destroyed almost half the kingdom. No bodies were found as the lightening had consumed all. She wasn’t supposed to be in that part of the kingdom where the lightening had struck, we didn’t live there. There was only one reason she must have gone there; because of us. To hear the latest news on the battlefield from soldiers in charge of the armoury, she had lost her life. It pained me so, that she should have had to die that way, but I had not the heart to scold Ogedemgbe for leaving her. He had chosen, it was a life for a life and because of him I was alive and she was dead. Ogedemgbe’s low whisper got to me; `by all standards she was a great woman too’ he said. `Yes’ I thought, `one of a kind’, silently agreeing with him, surprised that we were thinking alike. Ogedemgbe looked up and stared straight into my eyes as I returned from the rites of pouring the sand on our father’s grave. `All we have left is each other now, elder brother’, he whispered as his eyes watered. I pulled him towards me in a bear hug and at that moment he broke into tears. I lost my manly composure once again, as I joined him to cry, letting out all the pent up sorrow, as we cried like girls. The whole kingdom watched sadly and they cried too. Everyone had lost someone important to them in this war and we all mourned. The whole kingdom looked on sadly, drowned in its own sorrow, not interfering with us, as we cried out to our hearts content, bemoaning the loss of both parents, not just our father who died a hero, but also our mother, who died a victim. Both shared something in common, they died for us. We cried, shivering and shaking like two leaves left in the wind to dry as the voice of Okiki the poet rose above the sorrowful din, reciting a dirge he had written for the Dimpka the legend as the men fill up his grave with sand, and the northerners slowly disperse to their homes. And amidst the chaos of the battlefield, Dimpka came, A warrior returned from the fields the gods oversee, Unchanged, He had returned to prove his worth Like an Iroko, he stood, an obstacle between the enemy ranks and his king And for miles around he could be seen As lo and behold he pulled out a wooden sword And with it scattered the enemy like worthless salt
A hundred thousand fell to his wrath, The rest fled before him, frightened out of their wits like cats Dimpka slashed on and on, And broken blades flew back and forth Even nature bent to his will, As a whole forest moved to assist with the kill Then an enemy larger than the eye, Overwhelmed and poisoned him till he was tired, Undying, like the embers of fire He wrecked havoc, unwilling to retire Until all men of Xendu armed to the teeth, All lifeless laid at his feet Then he fell down too, Having spent the life he rent. Armour peeled exposing chest, As all and sundry beheld his battered skin And he bequeathed his last to his favourite kin Like a god who chose his path Dimpka faced that doom of men that pulls us all apart. .................................................................................................................................................... It was dark and a hooded figure walked the streets of Leog. To the poorest part of the city he headed. After the sixth turning by the left he got to the quarters he was looking for. He walked up to the second door by his right and knocked. The door was opened and a young girl stood in the way asking the question; Who are you? `I’m looking for Nina’ the hooded man replied, `Nina of the palace maids’.` Who are you?’ The young girl asked again. `Tell her it’s Akpoti’s father’ the hooded man replied. The young girl slammed the door, went inside and came back a few moments after, beckoning him to come in. He entered the hut and headed towards the oil lamp where Nina sat, cuddling her baby. `I’m here for... because of
something I heard’ the hooded man said, as he removed the hood he had used to cover his face. Lo and behold; it was the king. `I want to know the truth... did anything happen between you and Akpoti? `I’m sorry your majesty, Nina said, bowing her head in shame. I should have come to tell you as soon as I heard that he died, it’s just that he made me swear an oath never to tell anyone. `Were you ever going to tell me? Or were you going to wait till I died?’ The king asked dumbfounded. She looked down at her feet and tears dropped from her eyes. `I’m sorry your majesty’ she whimpered. `Is that my grandson?’ the king asked. She nodded her head amidst the fast flowing tears. `What’s his name?’ He asked. Ashaye, she replied in a voice muffled by tears. `It’s not too late Nina’ he said, placing his hand on her shoulder as he looked at her. `I’ve missed out on the first few years of his life, but not anymore’ he said. `At last there is something worth living for again’ he said to himself, as he collected the boy from Nina’s arms and held him high up in the air. `I’ll live for you Ashaye, to a ripe old age shall I live’ he whispered. The baby smiled from its sleep, he had heard all that his grandfather had said. THE END
PREVIEW THE MERE‐MORTAL TRILOGY BOOK 1‐ THE RISE OF THE COWARD CHAPTER 1
Dark clouds swirled overhead and the land moaned as our feet stomped. They had
desecrated the land, greed had taken over their reasoning, their strength was more than ours and yet we stood, defiant, we were what was left of the northern soldiers that began this expedition, a meagre few. I felt it, it was in the air, the atmosphere hadn’t been this tense since... Despair, hopelessness, disappointment... many had lost their spirit before this very battle but I... I had been in worse situations. I was their commander and had been fighting for Leog even before I came of age...before they were born. Fighting was in my spirit, fighting was in my blood, fighting was my life. Commander! The young man standing by my side whispered. They all looked up to me in the midst of this hopelessness, on this dark night when death seemed to smell everywhere around us, whispering sweet nothings into our ears and caressing us. I looked into their faces; they were young, inexperienced and reminded me of what might have been had my father, the northern legend not stepped into the battle on time. He had rescued me back then from the jaws of death but this time around, who was to rescue them? Me? I doubted even if I possessed the strength to kill a hundred thousand men with a single blade. Despite the fact that the particular blade he had used was with me, I doubted I could wield it with as much skill as he had done. I had never wielded it before, rather preferring the comfort of my axes. Would it come to that? I wondered. Was the great commander about to fall? Self doubt existed in my mind as we stood against the night, facing the might of the Turks, the turbaned riders that threatened to overrun us. They were unlike anything I had ever come across before; versatile to a fault, changing tactics and formation with ease not deemed possible on a battlefield, as they carefully outmanoeuvred all of my carefully planned battle strategies. Dust swirled as their horses stomped. We were outsmarted and outnumbered and I knew it, my soldiers knew it too but still looked up to me for guidance. `We should try one last time’ a voice to my left suggested. I squinted in the darkness, trying to place the face with the voice. He had a taut and grave look but that carefreeness was evident in his
eyes. He was eager to prove himself. He reminded me of myself in my younger days. I looked up into the moon and smiled. `I had lived the life’ I thought to myself. I had tasted the best of everything in life; women, clothes, food, battles and anything anyone could ever think of. The young king; Ashaye had entrusted this soldiers to me, they were the best of the best and were especially skilled in breaking enemy ranks. These enemy ranks we faced had eluded us thus so far. They had come from across the Sahara and were unaffected. How worse could things possibly get? `Odiga, move forward with the men on the left flank!’ I ordered. The rest of you shall attack with me as soon as I give the word! I screamed, ensuring my voice reverberated to the ears of every soldier left standing. YES SIR! They chanted and moved to obey my orders. None dared question me, for here on the battlefield; I was king and my words, law. I stood and watched as the Turks massacred every single one of the soldiers I had sent forward. Every single blow that they struck was felt by me in my heart. I looked behind me, I had a couple hundred men remaining. As the death screams of the last of the men that sent with Odiga reached my ears, I convinced myself that there was no way we could win. The men that stood behind me shivered with fear. The swirling clouds settled and thunder struck as it began to drizzle. `I wasn’t dead yet and the sky was already crying for me’ I thought. The sadness in my heart came back with a fuller force. I turned back again and looked upon the faces of my minions. They were after all my comrades. I saw them this time as they truly were; boys. To me, a man is one who has achieved something in life. I doubted if any of them could boast of having achieved anything worthwhile in their lives. That was why I deemed them unfit to die. I could feel the message of the talking drums in my ears just as I had heard them on my father’s funeral; `even a great man meets his end one day.’ I had no doubt about the fact that my end was today. Not knowing what else to do, I got down on my knees and offered a prayer to the gods. I was sure they would be shocked seeing me in a state like this, it was a sight for any mortal man to behold; Ogedemgbe the fearless down on his knees in the middle of a battle to pray. I stood up and was once more the fearless, having managed to banish all thoughts about death from my mind. `We shall fight until the last man!’ I screamed. EEEeeeeeeeh! They all chorused after me, my optimism spreading to them. I put my hands on my axes and brought them both out of the belt that held them fast to my waist. Everyman behind me drew his weapon too. I looked forward at the enemy as they approached. The look on my face had no description; the closest word to it would have been scornish anger. Chaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarge! I screamed. We all ran out, our feet pounding the earth as we moved. Some would later say that I saved the best for the last, but what did it matter right then? Thwack! My axe licked blood. I hacked away like a mad man, giving in to wild abandon. I had always been reckless on the battlefield. That was my style. Horses upturned, stumbled and trampled upon their masters at a kiss from my blade. For every once I hacked, two of them stumbled. I jumped in the air doing a 360 degrees spin and
hacked four men off their horses in the process. All of my soldiers were busy too, fighting without fear in their faces. This stemmed from the fact that we all knew we were going to die and were just trying to bring as many of them as possible down with us. The Turks started dismounting, having seen their horses turn chickens under the full gleam of our blades in the moonlight. I breathed hard as I removed my bloodied axe from the stomach of the last Turk I fell. We had broken their front line. They had retreated to gear up for an instant counter. `WE FIGHT UNTIL DEATH!’ I screamed and the voice of the northern soldiers still alive, scattered all over the battlefield, chorused a reply, as we turned and ran to intercept their foot soldiers. I hacked at the first, the second and the third. My axes sliced through their turbans, searing them into two as it found its mark. Under the moon light our faces shined with a death glow and our axes gleamed a dull red. I turned to face the fourth man when I felt the pain in my abdomen. I looked down and saw the edge of a blade jutting out of my stomach, covered all over with my blood. In fury, I turned and hacked the head of the perpetrator off its support. Before it landed, I pushed another soldier in my front out of my way, his head hit a rock that jutted out of the ground and his skull cracked open, spilling the contents of his brain. Five...no ten...fifteen...they were twenty, running towards me. In this darkness, I could see their silhouette illuminated against the moon light. It was a full moon. Without thinking I brought out his sword, the legendary sword that I had watched Dimpka Diopa use to slay a hundred thousand men. I brought it out and stuck it into the soft moist ground that was wet with blood. I removed the sword stuck in my abdomen, screaming out loud from the pain the process entailed. I looked up, they were close twenty four men now running towards me. Fortunately, I was still some distance away from them and no one was close enough to disturb me. I placed the bloodied sword above the wooden sword, letting my blood drip on it. Father! I invoked, `come to my aid!’ `Don’t let me die like this!’ `I want to die like you!’ Father!! I screamed, as I felt the first pains of their sword thrusts as they pierced me from behind. .................................................................................................................................................... Swift and daring He has no future Like his fathers before him, He lives in a dream, Fantasy, ecstasy, He reigns in a realm, Awake he has no spine
Asleep, he has no eyes Twisted is his fate And strong is his hatred, When the moon shines upon his face He takes upon the form of his kindred Strengthless and gutless He is the rejected stone But it has been said, And so shall it be That the man without a destiny Shall be the cornerstone And he shall bargain on the side of the mortals In the city of the gods Amongst the hordes of immortals and castaways A mere mortal shall stand a lord As the fate of all mankind will be held aloft, And all shall be sealed with his sword And all shall be bonded by his word ‐the song of zubi `This is but the beginning.’ ‐Omokere ....................................................................................................................................................
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