It was a while later Izogie finally strapped Tira against one of the mud pillars in the center of the palace hall. Still out of consciousness, her head rested low, almost touching her chest.
Izogie slapped her cheeks, just the way Tira used to do to her when she first started practicing rituals on her. However, slaps weren’t enough to wake up her former mistress.
“Why not try something else?” Deba suggested. “Either Mayo gives her a slap or you use one of those orinkas from Ezomo’s shrine room. I heard they are powerful enough to wake anyone and anything up”,
Izogie started out of the room to get something, anything, to wake Tira up.
“Don’t bother”, Juba stopped her, “I’ll do it myself”.
“Papa, are you sure?” Deba asked. “I think its better Izogie use something on her”.
“I’ve known Tira long enough to know that force doesn’t work on her. She gets even more aggressive, uncooperative or vicious”
Juba walked to where Tira was tied. He lifted her head up. Whatever Juba was doing, the others didn’t see. They only knew Tira was stirring awake. It wasn’t long after her eyes fluttered open.
“Juba!” that was the first name that escaped lips.
“Tira.” he called back
“What is happening? What are you doing to me? Why I’m I tied up?” she panicked.
“Nothing bad”, Juba calmed her down. “I only want us to help each other”.
“Help, you say”. She looked down at the rope holding her to the pillar. A soft chuckle escaped her lips and gradually built into a laugh. “You want to help me. Yet I’m tied, hands and legs.
“I will untie you”, Juba spoke, ignoring her. “And we will help you claim your father’s throne. We will get the people of the Songhai to acknowledge you as the true ruler of the kingdom. All we ask in return is that you undo what you did to Izogie”.
“Trade by barter, I see. Just when I was starting to think you care again”.
“I care. That is why I prefer to trade. I know you love to trade”.
“To the Zamani with what or what you do not want. Izogie is going through this because of you. So will you or will you not do it?” Deba asked through clenched teeth. She was obviously not happy with her father’s method and promises.
“That depends totally on your father”, Tira smirked. “If I do it, will he come back into my life, my arms and bed?” she looked in Juba’s direction.
“I will do as you ask”.
“No, papa.” Deba sounded disgusted, “you have a wife who is waiting for you”.
“No. She waits for Duefe. I’m no longer the man in her life.”
“Good. Then your wish, once more, is my command”, Tira said, “Can I ask for a kiss first?”
“Won’t you prefer I use a body?” Juba asked
“No. You’re perfect like this”.
Deba didn’t see her father kissing their most dreaded enemy. She only saw Tira’s lips move, accompanied by the sound made by a mixture of flesh and saliva. Her eyes narrowed to a slit. Izogie remained expressionless. Mayo kept his eyes on Yetu and Yuwa, refusing to be distracted.
“If you’ve seen death and destruction as I have, you won’t let this bother you.” that was Izogie
Deba turned to look at her. “We have a mother at home,”
“It doesn’t matter”.
Deba looked on at Izogie. In as much as she wanted to yell and drive home her point, she understood that her sister had been through a lot. And because of her experiences, very little mattered to her.
Juba and Tira soon ended their passionate moment. And Juba proceeded to untie her. “Now do your own part”. He said
“I will. But your part isn’t over.” she turned to Izogie, “Don’t just stand there. Get a bowl of water. I understand outside is rowdy and full of deaths and cries. But still, find me a white cock and a white chalk”.
“Is that all?” Juba asked.
“Yes. Your giant”, she gestured at Mayo, can give us all the fire we need. Yes?”
“Yes”, Mayo agreed. Although he was not happy being at her service. Not her. The woman was too evil. He never for once thought he would see another like him. But Izogie was like him and he could only imagine the terrible rituals she went through. He went through such too. If his fire was going to help free Izogie, then he was more than willing to give.
“Good then.” Tira said, then went about preparing the floor for the ritual.
Izogie left the palace hall and returned with the items after a very long while. Her clothes and face were blackened by smoke. But her expression was serious.
“Did anything happen to you?” Juba asked, concern in his voice.
“No. I just had to wade through corpses and burnt houses”. She dropped the items on the floor at Tira’s feet. “Shall we begin?”
Sometime later, markings made with the white chalk lined the floor in a wide circle. Izogie laid still in the circle; eyes closed. Tira knelt over her, chanting inaudible incantations.
“I need you”, she said to Mayo. “Touch your fire to the chalk circle”.
Mayo obeyed. The circle was soon lighted up, surrounding Tira and Izogie. The incantations increased. Tira took out a small dagger from her robe. The dagger was a surprise that jolted the onlookers. Tira raised it up and touched the sharp edge to her palm. Then she pulled. the flesh there came apart. Blood flowed out. She dropped the red liquid on Izogie’s still form before lifting the dagger above her head with both hands. Her incantations increased.
“No!” Mayo was the first to protest.
Tira!” Juba shouted’ suddenly understanding for the first time, what the sorceress was truly up to’ “We had a deal”, he reminded her.
But Tira was unconcerned with whatever he had to say. Gradually, the flames around them increased. Izogie, although with eyes still closed, became restless. Subsequently, she cried out. But she could not wake up.
Juba made to cross the flames. But he couldn’t. It was only then he realized Tira had put a banning spell to prevent him from interfering. She could only do that if she had a bit of the banned person’s property on her. Then he remembered. She hadn’t asked for a kiss because she felt like rekindling old love. It had all been part of her plan.
“Tira, please do not do anything stupid”, he begged
“Mayo”, Juba called, when her incantations increased in tempo. “Get my daughter, please! I can’t get through!”
Mayo charged into the flames. Tira continued her incantations, unperturbed. Her voice increased and so did the fire.
Distracted by what was happening to her sister, Deba completely backed Yetu and Yuwa. But she moved away from the increasing flame. Then she felt it. A sharp cut in her back. She cried out before turning around and slapping Yetu away from her, knife still stuck to her back. Grabbing Yuwa by the hands, Yetu ran out of the room. Juba must have realized what happened for he soon took over his daughter’s body, yanked out the knife and eased the pain.
Looking up again, he saw Mayo emerge from the fire, Izogie naked in his arms as the fire had consumed her clothing. He made to put her down, but a force pulled him back into the circle of fire. He struggled to come out. All to no avail. Mayo, even in his giant form was helpless. The flames were not ordinary. He was soon on his knees with Izogie, crying out frantically for help.
“Tira, please stop!” Juba called. But she did not hear him. Her eyes glowed with white light. The light grew brighter, enveloping her form just as her voice grew louder, filling the room and beyond. Those outside must have heard her. For Mekani and Dogo got in just in time to see a desperate Deba trying to get into the flame. Mekani moved to stop her. He was just behind her when a loud bang greeted their ears. The explosion that followed threw all three of them back as it shattered the palace building and went on for a considerable distance, clearing every other building in its path.
The soldiers outside were temporarily dumbstruck. None could imagine what had led to the explosion. The two medicine priests Dahome brought along couldn’t explain anything. But they sensed evil at work. It was Duefe, covered in blood and smoke, that first raised a call for help. Dahome recovered from the shock and joined him, ordering to soldiers to help.
The men waded through debris. They first found the queen and the princess. Yetu and Yuwa. Apparently, they hadn’t gone too far when the explosion occurred. Their bodies were covered in smoke, blood, and dust. Bones were severely fractured as their eyes stared into nothingness. Nothing could be done for them.
It was a while later Mekani was found lying under a large piece of the palace wall. Deba was close by. Dogo was further away. Being all unconscious, the medicine priests examined them and upon discovering a powerful evil at work, suggested that they be taken back to the Bini kingdom immediately. For only the palace chief priest could handle such matters.
They wasted no time. Duefe took charge, along with Kubu and two other trusted men. Together, they carried the trio back to Bini on horsebacks.
Dahome and Sultan Abdul Somaya, stayed back with the rest of the men. Their job was to seek out and kill every last one of the Tuaregs, vacate the villagers and raze the kingdom to the ground. For it was better that Utho Era ceased to exist. The pollution in the land was too great.
A soft wind blew across the open rooftop. Some birds chirped on nearby trees while others circled overhead, calling out to their friends.
Her sandaled feet made little noise as she walked slowly from one end of the rooftop to the other. Her white flowing gown rubbed the floor. Her hair was packed upward in one big bond. Red and white beads decorated the bond and the hair around it. A maid walked directly behind her, giving support when necessary.
It was five moons since the battle at Utho Era. But the incident was still fresh in her mind. The deaths, smell of blood and smoke. Then the explosion. The casualties that followed. Izogie and Mayo’s demise. Mekani and Dogo were not left out of the casualties. Neither was she. If the chief priest of the Bini palace was a joker, they would have been brain dead. All of them. She thanked the gods for Duefe and Kubu. For they were fast in conveying them from Utho Era to the Bini kingdom. They left nothing to chance.
Deba paused and sighed, looking at the activities below. Trading had increased in Gor. The women and children rescued from Utho Era were brought to life in the kingdom. They were given houses and lands. Other displaced residents from surrounding kingdoms down south came too, thereby populating the land. Whenever she looked out at the city, she saw growth, happiness, and prosperity.
Every day, for five moons, she took short walks on the flat rooftop of the palace. It was a very nice way to view the vastness, population and riches of Gor. However, once in a while, her eyes saw things that made her remember Mekani was not by her side at the moment. For example, a couple holding hands and walking down the street. Two lovers kissing. A marriage ceremony, or a woman with her baby. During such times her hands found her protruding stomach and caressed it fondly. Yes. Her baby was on the way. She thanked Olokun everyday for keeping her baby safe during the war. She never imagined she was pregnant with Mekani’s baby. And despite her suffering from the explosion, her baby was safe. However, she wasn’t sure she would be able to have him alone when the time came. She needed Mekani. He was her strength, her life and her will to see things done. But of course, since their return, things had not been the same. Mekani had buried himself in work, just to keep the kingdom afloat and also to forget that he had lost another parent figure, Juba, and a dear friend, Mayo. If only her father had not fallen into Tira’s pretence for a kiss. Then maybe, just maybe, things would have turned out differently.
The blast from Tira’s fire and light had not only thrown them off and made them unconscious, it had done worse. They sustained terrible head injuries. Their memories were wiped off. Juba had done his best to protect them, thereby ensuring death came to neither of them. But he couldn’t do same for Izogie and Mayo. For they were directly in the flame. The impact was thorough and death was inevitable. Izogie didn’t make it out alive. Mayo too. Whatever Tira did was deadly and it killed them right away.
Long after they woke up, they learned that nothing could be done for them unless certain spirits were appeased. And Juba was the ultimate sacrifice. He had to die for them to be revived. It was a sacrifice Deba wouldn’t forget in a hurry. It was after the sacrifice they woke up in the palace shrine. Oba Oliha stood over them with the priest, his servants, and Dahome.
“Thank the gods!” It was the first thing Oba Oliha said when he saw they were awake.
But they remembered nothing. It took more weeks of rituals and storytelling from Kubu and Duefe for them to remember a few things.
When they eventually returned to Gor, Pawo cried. She cried for her daughter she never held, and her husband who lost everything and still sacrificed himself to save the others. It was indeed, a long period of mourning. But she was glad to have Deba, Mekani, and Duefe back. They were the family she now had.
It took help from the palace elders for Mekani to get back on track with the running of the kingdom. Kubu and Dogo were mostly by his side. Deba wanted to be by his side too. But when she started passing out every now and then, a test was carried out by the palace physician. She was five months pregnant. She was advised to rest. A very quiet marriage ceremony was done for them. They wanted it that way, as they were still in mourning.
Due to the heavy responsibility of running the kingdom, Mekani came to spend time with her once in a while. But now he was off to another kingdom on a diplomatic mission. He left the kingdom in her care and Dogo as her assistant. She only hoped and prayed to the gods that Mekani would safely return to her before she was due for delivery.
Deba wasn’t the only one expecting a child. Her mother was too. Duefe was mighty happy about becoming a father. Whenever he was free, he spent time kissing and caressing Pawo’s protruding tummy. Pawo would giggle like a child and pat his head lovingly. Once, she said; if she had a girl child, she’d name her Izogie. If a boy, Ere. Duefe didn’t argue. He simply said the second boy would be named Enoma, for he hadn’t forgotten his brother.
Deba knew she’d have more children with Mekani. And since her mother had hijacked all the names, she would name her first child Ezodo. Be it, boy or girl. She wanted her father’s name and memory kept alive.
Times had changed. The war had come and gone. They had lost friends, fathers and mothers, and children. There was peace in the land now and so many kingdoms were in alliance with Gor. It was a time for growth and they hoped nothing would interfere with the peace.
As for Askia Ture, news traveled round that he hung himself after receiving news of his son’s death and the defeat of his army down south. A new peace-loving ruler was appointed by the elders in Gao. No one wanted a repeat of Askia Ture’s evil ways.
First published in 2016 on Karo’s Story Blog
©Karo Oforofuo. August 2016. All rights reserved.
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