While the warriors of the 7 Hausa City States traveled down the eastern roads, so as to take on the Tuaregs from an angle they wouldn’t expect, Juba divided his warriors into two groups. One group, led by Mekani, Kubu, and Dogo, was to travel down south through the western roads. The other group, led by Juba and Mayo, with Duefe assisting, went straight down south. A Zulu Impi was sent ahead to gather information and clear the roads.
The Journey down south lasted 3 days. The residents and kings of every kingdom they marched past wondered what was happening and sent messengers to inquire from them. It was only then a lot of other kingdoms realized they were at war, whether they wanted it or not. They had no choice but to send their warriors to join forces with Gor. As the days past, their numbers increased. And when they finally reached Oyo, they settled briefly. The next evening saw them close to the river that separated the Bini Kingdom from Utho Era. Leaving Utho Era for later, they marched straight to the Bini kingdom. The place looked peaceful. There seemed to be no war or unrest. Deba, recognized as the daughter of Ezodo and princess of the kingdom, was let in through the tall gates surrounding the kingdom. She went in with Mayo and Duefe only, leaving instructions for Mekani upon arrival. He was to take charge while she and Juba were away.
Inside the city, the residents went about their businesses normally, like nothing bad was happening. Juba, through Deba, narrowed his eyes to a slit. Different thoughts ran through his mind even as his heart jumped for joy at being home once again. This was his land. It was where he grew up and where he first learned everything he knew. Children ran about, playing. Activities were normal, but something was amiss. The women were dressed in their usual clothing and walked in groups to the market, but the men were dressed in war clothing. Guards were stationed at strategic positions and they eyed the men with Deba, suspiciously.
It was when they got to the whitewashed fence surrounding the palace that two huge men with loincloths wrapped around their waist and a heavy steel sword in one hand, approached them.
“Princess.” The first man spoke. Juba smiled, recognizing him
“Dahome. I am surprised you still remember me”. He spoke with Deba’s voice
“We all remember you and your father and mother. The last we heard, you volunteered to be Izogie’s chief maid. And then your mother disappeared. Now the same man Izogie was given to in marriage, has come to hunt us”.
Juba sighed. “I see you are well informed.”
“We must be. But we do not understand why. As I speak with you, Utho Era has fallen. A lot of our men are out there, at the boundary, fighting against the warriors of the Tuaregs to see if we can buy some time until help comes. A runner just reported to me. You have a large number of warriors outside the city. Could you be the help we’ve been waiting for?”
“Maybe. It is possible” Juba replied. “And these are my men”, he gestured at Mayo and Duefe. “We need to speak urgently with whoever is in charge, so we can speed things up.
“I am in charge. The Oba has been locked away in his shrine, communicating with the dead and seeking answers to the problems we now face. But I am sure he will see you. Come with me”.
The men followed Dahome into the palace compound and into a small building just behind the palace. In the building, they followed a narrow passage and emerged in an open yard.
“Both of you wait here”. Dahome instructed Mayo and Duefe. Juba continued with him. They walked briskly across the yard and took the door in the opposite direction. They soon got to the Oba’s shrine room. He was dressed simply in white wrapper and beads. He knelt on the bare floor before the gold cast images of Ogun, Olokun.
“I thought I instructed you to not disturb me?” He asked Dahome without looking back.
“You did, my father. But the people here may just be the answers you seek. Ezodo’s daughter is with us”.
“Ezodo?” He turned and gradually got to his feet
“Not Ezodo,” the chief priest said, emerging from behind a tall wooden statue. “Juba”.
“Juba? What is that?” Oba Oliha really looked confused.
“I see through. Ezodo is Juba. He is now a god and he possesses his daughter’s body”, He finished, coming to stand in front of Deba. “What happened to you?”
Juba smiled. “You are the first person seeing through my daughter, my old friend.” They soon locked themselves in a tight embrace.
“It has been a long, long while. We all thought you were dead. Ezomo assured us you were.”
“Ezomo will do anything to save his neck, so will his wife and daughter.” Juba pulled back to look at him. “After all, a fruit never falls far from its tree”.
“Ezodo”, Oba Oliha called, taking few steps forward
“Uncle.” Juba walked up to him and bowed. But Oliha raised him up and went for a hug.
“After you and your brother left, your father was very sad. He remained sad and eventually fell ill. On his death bed, I promised him I will look after the both of you”.
“I remember that promise. I was here”.
“Yes. But then the sad news of your death rendered that promise useless. How did you come to be like this? Tell me everything”.
“We have a war to fight, Uncle. But of course, you need to understand some things first. So I’ll be as brief as I can”.
“Come, let’s sit”. Oba Oliha led Juba to the east wing of the shrine where several stools were arranged. The chief priest and Dahome joined them.
Less than an hour later, Oba Oliha sat, shaking his head after Juba had finished his story. “A lot of deception has taken place. Power truly intoxicates and turns a man’s heart for the worst. How could your brother be so cruel?”
“Like I said, my brother is not the only problem. If Yuwa succeeds in getting her hands on the bronze image of Ogiso Igodo and gives it to Prince Daoud, we are finished. They will take over the lands, even up to as far as Egypt. The Tuaregs are mostly after Gor though. They want us destroyed because of the massacre we unleashed when we broke free from our slave masters in Mombasa and then Gao. We killed a few of their relatives too. For that, they want all our lands and our people to pay. It is more like a revenge mission. And I’m afraid both my daughters are very much involved in this”.
“She came here once, Yuwa.” The priest said as he remembered. “She asked to see the bronze image of Ogiso Igodo. But we were having a ceremony that time and it was impossible to let her see it.”
“She may try again. Or, if Prince Daoud wins this war, he will have his hands on it. We can’t let that happen.”
“We won’t.” The priest assured him. “You have suffered a lot because of your brother. News reached us. He has fallen. When Prince Daoud laid siege to the kingdom, his daughters and wife pledged their loyalties to them, so they were spared. But not the army. They’ve all become possessed”.
“I don’t think we should waste more time”. Dahome spoke up. “If they are after you and your kingdom, they must know that you have strength in numbers too – the Hausas are behind you and so are other smaller kingdoms. Like you said, they are gearing up for a final showdown in Gor. We should stop them before they even reach us here, let alone the other kingdoms”.
“I agree.” Juba rose to his feet. “But first, I need Ogiso Igodo’s bronze statue”.
“What will you do with it?” The priest asked. Brows raised.
“The sorceress I talked about has blocked my visions. I can’t see ahead. If we move like this, we might walk blindly into a trap. The statue will help get her block out of my head. I only need to possess it briefly. And then I need a piece of it for something else. It will be returned, I promise”.
“I have always trusted you, my old friend. Come,” the chief priest got to his feet. “I will take you to it”.
It was almost Sunset when they set off for Utho Era. The Bini warriors, led by Dahome, joined Juba’s and together they marched for Utho Era. For they were certain, Prince Daoud was resting with his warriors after conquering the land, as well as other surrounding kingdoms.
They reached the outskirts of Utho Era at night. Lightning flashed through the cloudy sky. Thunder rolled, announcing the possibility of a heavy downpour. The borders of Utho Era were heavily guarded by sword-wielding Tuaregs. One by one, Juba, Mayo, Dahome and Duefe, although the less skilled among the warriors, took them down without allowing the rest of the army to join them. Once done, the entire army marched past the border and headed straight for Ede, the main city, as the small villages around were already burnt and deserted.
A mile away from the white-washed walls surrounding Ede, they spotted activities from up the wooden watchtower Ezodo constructed years ago. He had insisted on constructing it for the security men, to make their jobs easier. Unfortunately, the enemy was now using it to their advantage.
Now closer to Ede, the city’s gate opened to reveal riders, armed to the tooth, positioned, waiting for the last command. But only one person walked through the gate before it was locked again behind her. Izogie. Her red flowing gown rubbed the ground as she made her way towards the men. Juba sighed, watching his daughter approach. Deba, in her father, looked on with so much regret. If only things had been as they should, her sister wouldn’t be stepping out to challenge them.
“Leave me with my child”, Juba instructed the men. “No matter what happens, do not interfere. If things go as planned, we might win this war without having to lift a finger.”
Izogie stopped a short distance away from the horsemen. “My master asks,” she started, “have you come to surrender? Or have you come to fight?”
“Izogie,” Juba unmounted his horse and took few steps towards her
“Stop!” She ordered, “there is a line before you, a few feet away. If you cross it, I’m instructed to kill you”,
“But you won’t”.
“I will. Those are my orders”.
“You must not obey those orders”.
“Says me. Do you know who I am?”
“Yes. My father in my sister’s body. Whatever Tira did to me shows me only the truth about anyone or anything I come across. I’ve known for a while now my real parents and siblings. But my mind and actions are hers to control. Whatever she orders, I must do”.
“Izogie,” Juba stepped forward
“Do not cross the line. I will fight you to the death if you do”. She threw both hands sideways in a swift manner. The result was fire bursting out of her hand and turning her eyes red. “I will kill you. Do not cross the line “. This time her voice was that of many gods talking from one source”.
“I see,” Juba said, gently moving forward. “She possessed you with a crystal from the brothers of the shadows.”
“You have your last warning,” Izogie said, eyeing the line closely, “once your feet touch that line, I will strike”. Her palms folded into a fist. Gold flames emanated from them
“You can fight this”. Juba insisted as his right foot finally touched the line
“I can’t.” She roared into the night air and charged towards Juba. The flames from her fist jumped, spreading all over her body. In a twinkle of an eye, she became the female but a most wicked version of Mayo. A fire giant made especially for destruction and death.
Upon reaching Juba, she threw a fiery fist. Juba moved out of the way. Dahome and the other men drew their swords but Juba cautioned them to stay put. Izogie attacked again and this time, she was locked in battle with Juba. The fire from her body inflicted severe burns on Deba. Deba cried within. But Juba kept on. He fought with blows enough to send an ordinary man to his death. At an unguarded moment, Izogie got hold of Juba, picked him up and flung him across the open field. He crashed hard to the ground. Not giving him space, Izogie was soon by his side, raining blows on him. He blocked with one hand and managed to use his free hand to quickly pull out from his waistband, the piece of metal he took from the bronze image of Ogiso Igodo.
While Izogie raised her hand for another blow, Juba swiftly drove the sharp end of the piece into Izogie’s heart and then rolled away from her when she screamed and fell down. The fire burning from her body slowly began to die down and her body took on its normal form, as she rolled about in agony.
The gates of Ede opened then. Tira, Prince Daoud and 29 of his finest men approached.
“What did you do?” Tira was the first to bark as she moved over to kneel beside Izogie who was still in agony. She looked sad as she watched her most prized creation screaming and thrashing about violently. “What have you done to her?” Tira asked again, shooting angry eyes at Deba.
“What you will never understand”, Juba replied, moving back to stand with his men while favoring his right arm. Deba’s clothing sustained terrible burns. So did her skin. Juba should have healed her body. But he would not, at the moment. Especially not before Tira. She knew him too well. Any attempt to use his powers meant her discovering his presence. So he receded to the background and let Deba take over.
Taking on full consciousness, Deba cried out as the severe pains from the beatings and burns shot through her body. Dahome came to her aid, pouring on her water from a skin bag the chief priest had given him for healing and protection. The burns and pains did not completely clear off. But she felt a little relieved.
“You!” Prince Daoud pointed at Deba after taking his eyes off Izogie. “She was one of my indispensable property. Now you’re killing her. I should have killed you long ago. I see my man never killed you, neither did he return. The goat must have decided to let you live after a taste from between your legs”.
“No. He did nothing of the sort. He just wasn’t man enough to deal with me”, Deba said, confidently moving two steps.
“I should have killed you myself”, he said through clenched teeth.
“So you said before. What are you waiting for?” she drew her sword out of the leather sheath around her waist. The metal shone brightly. It was the Ada given to Ezodo by his father. “This is no ordinary sword,” she announced to the Prince.
“I don’t care what it is” Tira screamed. She angrily got to her feet, leaving the still writhing Izogie to fight for herself. Before Deba, she stood, obstructing the Prince. “Juba is behind this, I know. Where is he?”
“How should I know?” Deba feigned ignorance. Tira chuckled.
“I am no fool, girl,” she said, looking around. I can smell you for the stench that you are Juba. Gor is mine. Do you hear me? I am taking what you treasure the most”.
Juba, refusing to run away from a challenge, resurfaced in Deba and pushed her to the background.
“What I treasure most is the owner of this body I inhabit”.
“And there you are. I knew it.” Tira covered her, “Your stench is all over Izogie. You better undo whatever you did and give her back”.
“That won’t happen”.
“Then be prepared. Your wife will go too. Do not forget I know your history. As we speak, a vast number of our possessed warriors march for Gor. I have shown them the entrance. When they get in, Gor will burn”.
“You lie. Blocking my visions can’t help you, you know that”,
“Your Zulu friends couldn’t wipe out our possessed” Prince Daoud spoke up. “We sent our men in two groups. One group marches through the eastern routes. The other, the west. Now behind that wall, he pointed at the Ede wall, I have a larger number of loyal men ready to die for my cause”.
“Your army won’t get far. A vast number of the armies from the Hausa kingdoms up north are marching through the eastern roads. The rest are marching through the western roads. Your men are no match for them”.
“You lie!” Prince Daoud moved to stand by Tira. He was suddenly shaken by the fact that Juba knew their plans. “I thought you blocked his vision?”
Tira shook him off her back
“I don’t lie.” Juba said, “But she does.” He pointed at Tira. ” Ask her. Ask her who she really is?”
“What are you insinuating? Tira questioned angrily.
Juba ignored her outburst and continued. He had to, as it was his perfect distraction plans while the piece from Ogiso Igodo worked its magic on Izogie. “Ask her Daoud”, he said “Ask who her real parents are and why she joined your team. The Songhai has always been hers to rule. Hers and her brothers’. But your father murdered her father, your uncle and his wife and sons. They are the true rulers of the Songhai. The daughter your father never found so as to get rid of her, is now your sorceress. She quietly awaits your triumph before carrying out her plans of revenge on you. So while you busy yourself trying to avenge the death of slave masters who captured me and my men for eight years, and then forced my only son to his death, she plots to slit your throat, hang your father and sit on your throne. Look closely at your warriors, Daoud. They are loyal to her, not you. She has them at her command. You and your father have been the big fools all along.”
“Don’t listen to him”, Tira protested. “He is trying to turn us against each other. That’s his way of doing things”.
“One way or the other, the truth will reveal itself”. Juba smirked. The change he so desired in his daughter was complete.. “But before then. I have another surprise for you. Turn around”, he persuaded.
Not wanting to be tricked, Tira refused to look behind. But Daoud did and he drew Tira’s attention when he saw Izogie on her feet. Tira turned to look at her creation.
“Izogie,” Tira called, walking to her. She held Izogie’s cheeks in her palms. “Look what they did to you. Don’t let them hurt you again, my child. It ends now. Finish them off” she gave the last command.
Izogie, filled with new life, vigor, and reasoning, slapped Tira’s hands off her cheeks and placed one open palm against Tira’s chest. A powerful force shot through her palm, picking Tira off the ground and flinging her through the sky into the surrounding bush. Tira screamed and landed with a very loud thud.
Izogie listened to no one but Tira, Daoud knew. So if she could do what she did to Tira, then he was no exception. He turned quickly to instruct his men to come to his defense. But in a flash, Izogie was by his side. A punch to the stomach made him bend low, holding his middle. She then placed one hand around his neck and jerked upward. His neck snapped. And when she left him, he dropped to the ground, dead.
The other Tuareg warriors behind were gripped by fear. Their leader had just died like a fowl before their eyes. They turned their horses around and hurriedly started back towards the gate.
“Don’t let them escape”, Dahome ordered the men, “pursue!” He took the lead. Duefe followed him
The men charged and raced after them. Just before they reached the gate, the Tuaregs were caught up with and fighting ensued. The fear they earlier felt made them almost paralyzed, so much so, they couldn’t fight as well as they were trained to. While the Tuaregs were cut down, Mekani arrived with his men. Sultan Abdul Somaya and his warriors of the Hausa kingdoms arrived too. On closer look, one would see that not only did they decrease in number, their appearances showed they had been engaged in serious battle.
However, they were not weary. They came with ladders and wooden torches. They reached the walls of Ede and started to mount their ladders. From the other side of the wall, seeing that Daoud had been killed and Tira was nowhere in sight, Yuwa took charge of the men. She knew her treachery wouldn’t go unpunished. It was better to get the men to defend her and her mother than to fall into the hands of the warriors outside her city.
She ordered the warriors, promising them all of her late father’s gold if they kept the city safe. The archers among them came together. In a single file, they dipped the pointed ends of their arrows in black oil and then into the fire before mounting it on their bows. At the fall of the commander’s hand, they shot the fiery bows into the night sky. The arrows went over the fence and descended on the warriors trying to get over the walls. A lot of them were killed instantly, the fire caught some and spread over their clothes, burning them. A few others got pierced in their legs and arms. But it was just the start as more fiery arrows rained down the night sky on the men. Even as they were determined to scale the fence, they were killed in their numbers.
Seeing the massacre, Mekani raised his voice, ordering the men to pull back. It took a while but the men finally heard his voice and fell back. As soon as they did, he commanded his archers in front. They too began to shoot arrows over the fence. Loud cries from over the wall told them targets were hit.
Welcoming the interruption of arrows from the other side, Izogie roared, releasing the powers in her as she grew bigger and burst into flames. She raced for the gate. Mayo followed her, changing into his fiery giant form as they neared the gate. Together, they rained powerful blows against the wall until it cracked. Then they ripped the gate out of it. Seeing the size of their adversaries and knowing fully well what Izogie was capable of, the Tuaregs abandoned their positions and ran for cover. Izogie and Mayo descended on them.
The archers ceased firing. With Mekani, Dahome, Dogo, Duefe, and Kubu leading, the men charged forward and were soon inside the city of Ede. Swords clashed against swords and spears against spears. Screams rented the air
From where she was, Deba fought side by side Sultan Abdul Somaya. Izogie sought them out and with a fling of hand, cleared away all the Tuaregs in their path before turning to face her sister. “Where did our father go?” her hands were molded into a fist. Deba feared she was gearing up to fight her.
“Calm down Izogie. Our father will be back. He went into the bush to look for Tira. You know she can be sneaky”.
“Exactly what way did he go?” The smoke from her burning body rose steadily to the sky
“That way.” Deba pointed out the bush. While Izogie headed in the direction pointed out, Mayo surfaced and stood by Deba.
“You mean Juba had long left your body?” The Sultan asked, bewildered.
“And I fought with you because I trusted you had my back!” He frowned
“I may not be my father. But the more he uses my body, the more I tap into his strength and skills. Yes, I had your back”.
“Good then.” He turned to see more Tuaregs and some demon-possessed warriors charging towards them. “And good you’re here too. We have each other’s back.”
The first Tuareg to approach got the end of the Sultan’s sword buried in his stomach. As the rest came, Deba and Mayo charged toward them.
It was indeed a bloody fight. The quietness of the night was shattered by loud screams, the clash of metals and the fire cracks from burning houses. The smell of roasted flesh filled the atmosphere.
It was a long while later Deba and Mayo made their way into the palace hall. True, Ezomo sat on his chair, head bent against his chest. Blood oozed out of his open stomach to the floor. The sight of her dead uncle made her forget all the hate and anger she had for him. It was unfortunate he was betrayed by his own wife and daughter. The gods were right. He who betrayed his own brother will be betrayed too by someone close to his or her heart.
She moved closer to inspect his body. But a shuffling sound at the far end of the palace hall caught her attention. Mayo increased the fire from his body so they could see well. Lo and behold, Yetu with Yuwa. They held long daggers, their only protection.
“The people I’ve been looking for”, Deba said, moving away from her dead uncle’s body. “Where are the other children? What about the other wives? My aunties?
“They are well,” Yetu replied, relaxing her grip on the dagger. “You have no idea how relieved we are to see you”.
“Oh Deba,” Yuwa stepped forward, smiling. “We are so glad to see you are alive and well. After the way we saw Izogie, we were beginning to get scared that they’ve done something worse to you,” She made to hug her cousin, but Deba warded her off.
“I know exactly what and who you are, Yuwa. And you,” She looked at Yuwa’s mother, then back at Yuwa. “My supposed best aunty and cousin”.
“Deba please, don’t listen to what they are saying. Those are lies” Yuwa pleaded.
“Tell me, who killed your father? Who surrendered the city and entire kingdom to the Tuaregs?”
“They did,”Izogie said, joining them. She had returned to her normal size and look. However, she came in carrying Tira over her shoulders, to the bewilderment of everyone.
“You should have killed her instead.” Deba protested, “She is dangerous”.
“We need her to undo everything done to your sister”. Juba spoke. She hadn’t realized he came in too.
“And what will be the fate of these two?” Deba asked
“That’s my decision to make, Deba” Izogie said, “Stay away from them and help me here instead.
To be continued….
First published in 2016 on Karo’s Story Blog
©Karo Oforofuo. August 2016. All rights reserved.
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