Nyago is annoyed. He is running short of breath and fuming with hot bile. He hates being woken up from his routine afternoon nap and never hesitates to strike anyone who dares to do so with his royal-like bamboo rod. Everyone in the dala is always careful not to disturb his sleep especially for silly reasons or tasks that can easily sorted by his council members. But this is no ordinary afternoon. His leadership is urgently needed by the council. As the adage goes ‘desperate times call for desperate moments’. And this is one hell of a desperate situation. Darkness of the ages is looming in the little chiefdom.
He walks to the council room irritated and the five old men stand in unison as he makes a slow entrance. There’s a lonely calabash of kwesi at the far corner of the room. Only fruit flies seem to be interested in it though and so they buzz around it in circles and in perfect slow motion. On an ordinary day at the council, the old folks would conduct village business as they sucked it with their long sekes (traditional straws). Laughter would be rampant as Chief Nyago or Ochollah, the head spy of the village, cracked some joke about an ancestral spirit long gone. Not this day. This is one of those days when no one dared maintain eye contact with Nyago. The strong stare of his red eyes was enough to make a man wobble to the ground.
He sat and the others followed in uniform succession. He moved his three legged stool next to Ochollah and bellowed in his raspy voice. Anyone could tell from afar that he hadn’t slept much. He was certainly in no mood of exchanging pleasantries and his foul mood made the small council room look even smaller for the other members.
“Can anyone please explain to me what you’re all doing here on a Tuesday afternoon? Don’t you people have better things to do like going for Spas or enrolling for yoga lessons?”
Ochollah felt the urge to laugh but knew what Nyago’s wrath looked like. He therefore quietly refrained. In front of him lay old scrolls and his revered charcoal pen. He slowly ruffed through the pages and stopped at some point. Lore went around that his scrolls carried the deepest secrets of the village. The whispers among the village’s oldest women signaled to that fact. It’s no wonder he carried them everywhere he went. Rumor had it that not even his wife knew what the contents were. Even the council members knew nothing of what their eloquent colleague had in his famed scrolls. This made Ochollah very powerful. At council meetings, he spoke second after the chief. He had Nyago’s ear on almost all issues. His input was highly valued by old Nyago and his colleagues knew better not to openly contradicting his positions on different matters.
And so Ochollah spoke.
” Good afternoon council members of the great Kadhiang’ village. ” He had lived long enough to know that customs dictated for him to be courteous regardless of how dire any situation was.
” My apologies to our great Chief Nyago for interrupting his afternoon siesta. But the matter at hand needs his urgent attention. The walls of our village have been breached for the first time in a hundred years gentlemen.” He paused for a little while to let the chief process that key piece of information. Nyago squalmed on his stool and immediately wore a terrified face to his already disappointed attitude. Ochollah could tell that anger was burning inside him and therefore took cue to proceed.
“Two hours ago, warriors from the Jotheko Clan raided us with their spears, arrows and fiery rungus and breached the walls. As we all know gentlemen, we have never had such a daring raid in broad daylight. Our soldiers were caught completely off-guard. We lost quite a number. The few who remained are severely wounded. None of them have any molars left in their mouths. The savages from Jotheko plucked off their teeth and uprooted their lower lips. History and our records show that those miscreants pride themselves as artful beasts.” Ochollah paused a little while to stare at the facial expressions that the gentlemen wore. Oredo, the head of security operations, had a sweat trickling from the left side of his face. He constantly shifted from his seat knowing very well that Nyago would not be laughing with him. Mbura looked calm as the whole spectrum unfolded. He had always been unreadable; a fact that constantly bothered Ochollah who considered himself a human microscope that can see beyond the skull into the deepest thoughts of any physical being.
“That is not the worst part gentlemen” Ochollah proceeded.
“Those savages stole our gold reserves, destroyed the farm fields and kidnapped fifteen young men and women from us. And unfortunately, our great chief’s daughter Jaber is among the captives…..”
Nyago quickly rose and banged the table made of papyrus reeds. He thundered and his roar filled the room.
“My beloved daughter has been kidnapped? How the hell was that not the first thing that you said? Do you really know who I am? What kind of nonsense is this?”
The chief was angry and there was no containing him. He had much respect for the gentlemen but at such times he could easily lose himself and even strike them with his bamboo rod. An incredible silence ensued in the room. It could cut a soul. Ochollah, for the first time, felt very scared of the old man. He looked away from his red rheumy eyes nervously to the ground.
After what seemed like eternity, Nyago descended slowly to his seat and asked Oredo to stand up and outline the rescue plan. Oredo was caught very unaware. He had no concrete plan but knew that he could not loudly say that. Saying that he had no plan sounded like death sentence. This seemed like his fault and he had to own up. Had he been more stringent with his security around the village walls, they wouldn’t be having this meeting.
“Good evening ge…..” He started but Nyago told him cut the bulshit and get to the point. And so he rumbled about. His plan was to rally the remaining soldiers and conduct an evening hunt and raid.
“Ochollah informs me with his Intel that the Jotheko warriors have not gone so far away. My plan is to rally my troops in the next hour and plan the logistics on how to go after those misfits and bring back our sons and daughters home safely. Thankfully, our most experienced warrior and raid leader, Atobi, is around and will lead the hunt. We plan to quickly move along the banks of Asao River and intercept those misfits at the Moro Ridge. Atobi will handle everything at that point. As I speak to you gentlemen, he is mobilizing the strongest of our remaining warriors. The operation will commence at the top of the hour once the high priest has smeared the faces of all our warriors with white ashes. And of course, once our beloved Chief Nyago approves it.”
Oredo finished and thought to himself that he had fumbled well. The only truth inside his remarks was the fact that Atobi was mobilizing young men out near the village dip. The rest of the ‘operation plans’ that he stated before the council were lies that he sang in order to avoid rebuke. He made a note to himself, however, to later on whisper to Atobi some of those details.
The chief stepped up immediately Oredo finished detailing his plans. He ordered all the gentlemen to follow him to the point where the warriors has converged. Atobi, the head warrior, stopped readying his team as soon as the council members joined them. Oredo mumbled a few instructions to him and he nodded valiantly. Atobi synonymized the war heroes that were told in the night village-tales to children looking for inspiration. He was built with heavy muscles and a broad chest. His tall height made so many pretty village girls endear to him but he had his eyes only for Jaber, the chief’s daughter who had now been kidnapped. It killed him inside to know that yadh chunye has been kidnapped and could possibly be killed before he even manifested his feelings overtly. The rage made him the best person to lead the raid. His constancy at war and victories in street fights provided the necessary experience but it is the anger that fueled him the most at this point.
“Bring my daughter back alive” Those were the only words Chief Nyago uttered to Atobi after the high priest was done with the warriors. It had been a decade since the village went to war but none of that mattered. A showdown was looming.
A horn was sounded and a war cry followed from the back. Spears floated in the air and machetes dangerously hang in the hands of the young men who were now the only hope of the village at rescuing their younglings.
And off they went.
Atobi could be heard issuing commands from a distance as the procession matched North.
“Hurry up Opija. Are you worried about getting your toe nails dirty? Look at this one. How many wars have you been to? Do you want to go for pedicure? Or are you itching for a selfie?…No? Then hurry the hell up you beardless man. We’ve got work to do here.”
To be continued