Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Konga and the Staff of Obatala

Chapter One

It was a cold windy night. The shinning bright half moon lit up a breathtaking view of vistas through which poured a silver translucent waterfall from an outcrop of rock down into a deep wide pool several hundred feet below. The water in the pool frothed and bubbled as if a fire burned beneath its depths.
A lone figure walked along the edges of the pool looking into its watery depths as if entranced. As he walked his tongue came out and he licked his lips as if seriously considering throwing himself in. He was tall, five feet above six feet with long muscled arms and legs. He had a long pair of ashoke trousers which stretched from his waist to his ankles. His torso was bare, but a string with several cowry shells and charms were tied to the upper part of his left arm. He had dark hazel eyes and full lips with pale drawn handsome features which looked as if it had been chiseled out of granite.
He came to an abrupt halt and looked into the huge cloudless sky, staring as if hypnotized by the half moon. Tears slid from his eyes and streamed down his cheeks.
“Olorun Olodumare, why do you continue to torment me? There is such pain in my spirit. Everything that is important to me has been stricken from me. Some nights I find myself wishing the good king had been less merciful and slain me. I cannot continue to live like this.” He said in a dull flat monotone.
He sighed and slowly glanced back towards the path which led to the dark and forbidding looking forest behind him. His long shiny cutlass lay on the ground, one of his many accused gifts from that approbate Eshu. Wherever he was Konga knew it would not be well with him. Not after everything he had done and all that had happened. Leaning down, he carefully began to roll up his trouser legs to the knees. His task completed he sat down and dangled his legs into the clear shinning water.
A cold wind blew from the trees and he shivered slightly. But the cold in the winds wasn’t half as great as the great void of emptiness which poured from his soul.

Miles to the north, on long huge craggy ranges of hills; a great cloud of darkness poured from the inky black skies and swirled around in a funnel. The thick tendrils of cloud twirled around faster and faster till everything became a huge dark blur. The huge cloud concentrated on one spot on the precipice of the largest hill and in a space of a few seconds, all the darkness in the sky shot out and converged on top of the highest hill forming a thick frothing pool. The pool began to swirl around faster and faster till it disappeared all together and a man now stood where the darkness had once been.
He was bald headed and wore long black robes which were wrapped around his body from his chest to his feet in thick folds. His eyes were obsidian fathomless pools and his face was carved into cold hard forbidden lines. In his left hand, he held a long black staff with ancient markings carved on its smooth ivory surface.
At the height at which he stood, he could see miles in all directions and the world stretched out before him in a most picturesque vision. To a mortal man this breathtaking spectacle would have made him giddy, somewhat heady with a huge taste of self importance and power. But to him, there was only an insane lust to destroy and control. Evil poured like a gloomy essence from his skin and hate burned in his eyes.
He opened his mouth wide and a single piercing note poured from his lips. It was so loud that the hills which surrounded him began to shiver and shake. Bits and pieces of dirt and debris fell to the ground as the sound carried for miles in all directions.
To the Far East, a tiny black speck appeared and raced towards him at breathtaking speeds. As it approached, it got steadily larger and larger. When it was a few hundred feet away, he could see it that it had the shape of a man, but was much larger than any man could ever be. Black from head to toe with long fangs which grew from his jaws dripping saliva as it beat the air with huge bulbous wings which oozed a thick black smoke as it flew.
With a loud thump which shook the hillside, it alighted in front of the man in black.
“Did you find the staff?” The man in black asked. His voice harsh, cruel and guttural; somewhat rusty as if used infrequently.
“No my Lord.” The demon replied. “I went after it when the priestess fell from the hillside boundary of purgatory. It was lost in the waters of strife and destruction. I followed its path and discovered that the staff had fallen through a series of lay lines which….”
“I KNOW WHAT IT IS YOU FOOL!” The man in black interrupted with a loud roar. “The path which connects the realms, thousands they may be. What interests me now is whether you know to what realm the staff has fallen to.”
The demon shook its dark ugly head. There were several long moments of heavy silence as the man’s face contorted in fury. Anger poured in waves from his stiff body and a large vein throbbed incessantly in his neck. Unable to control himself any longer, he let out a loud roar dissolving into thick black clouds as he did so. A tremor went through the earth and a bolt of lightening burst from the sky and struck the hilltop. There was a huge explosion and the demon was thrown over the edge. It fell for several hundred metres and slammed with a resounding CRACK into the hard ground. The report was like a thunder clap. A huge chunk of the hillside disintegrated from its huge hulk and collapsed on the body of the demon. A heavy silence ensured.

Chapter Two

Ile – Ife (2 days later)

Two men walked down a long narrow corridor leading to the throne room in the Palace of Ile – Ife. One was tall and had a well muscled body covered in dark blue silk trousers and a shirt with no sleeves. Its entire length was dotted with shiny white cowry shells which were sewn to it. He held a sharp cutlass in his right hand and on his left wrist was a charm. The other was short and stout with a thick dark blue robe wrapped around his waist and a white horse tail in his right hand. His torso was bare and he had a pot belly which folded over the robe wrapped around his waist.
“Ayomide you have the ears of the king. Try and persuade him to let down his huge contingent of armed guards and come out. His people need to see him. In view of the growing number of threats which loom from many of our enemies. Konga’s betrayal and treachery has spread far and wide and a lot of our enemies are aware of the losses we suffered from the internal war we waged. We are being viewed as weak. Already there are rumors of attacks from several quarters; our people are in a state of great fear and panic. There are even rumors that the king has fled and abandoned his people. These rumors have only served to worsen the whole situation. You must prevail on our king to address the people, at least to give them a sense of hope.”
Ayomide slowed almost to a halt as the plump man beside him stopped speaking. A heavy sigh escaped from his body in a big whoosh.
“Adekanye…” He began slowly. “You are one of this city’s most senior chiefs. You were there when the attacks took place. Surely you remember the terror and horror of those moments when it seemed all hope was lost?” He paused and sighed again willing his feet to move. They reluctantly obeyed him.
“I still have dreams, nightmares of those precious few seconds when Konga and his minions didn’t seem like men; they were more like demons and devils, creatures not of this world. I still see them every time I close my eyes. Some nights I can barely sleep.” He turned around slowly and faced Adekanye. Adekanye almost gasped when he saw the look of fear in his eyes.
“If the king’s fears are in anyway like my own, I don’t blame him for burying himself in his private chambers surrounded by a bevy of his best warriors. Because then he and I know these attacks might not be over. My spirit tells me that such great evil cannot be so easily dispersed.”
“It wouldn’t have been this way if the king hadn’t decided to let Konga go free. He was the orchestrator of the whole debacle. He should have been put to the death.”
“The priestess was quite clear on that issue. Konga was not to be harmed. You know that so why bring that up now?” Ayomide snapped.
“You know as well as I do that if Konga had been executed, this shroud of fear would not be hanging over the entire kingdom. He alone is responsible for the weakness in our kingdom. We lost many good men because of him.” Adekanye said earnestly.
Ayomide opened his mouth to respond but stopped because they had already reached the entrance to the throne room. Reaching down, he lifted the latch on the door and entered the throne room.

King Abiodun Babatunde sat on a tall mahogany throne covered with animal skins. On the left arm of the chair was a huge lion head, its wide open mouth seemingly roaring its displeasure at those who approached it. He was a stately man with long powerful arms and limbs. He had skin the color of tar and his eyes burned black within the sockets of his skull. His expression was warm and pleasant, but lines of worry had etched into his features and today he had a worried frown on his face. Seven of his ten chiefs were gathered around him and they were deep in conversation.
“My Lord you must reconsider on your decision to shun the counsel of Ifa and the other orishas. We realize you feel a sense of obligation to the priestess who saved your life, but please reconsider.” Oyinlola one of his more senior chiefs said.
He was a short squat man with a portly belly. A result of one shot of palm wine too many at the village square.
“I agree…” Osunlade another chief agreed. “Never in over a millennium has any king shunned the counsel of the Ifa. They have been our spiritual guides as far back as our history goes. You mustn’t put all your trust in these priestesses.”
“THESE PRIESTESSES…” Oba Abiodun roared rising to his feet. “Are the reason I still have a kingdom to rule. Konga and his minions almost decimated this city and not one of my powerful Orishas and Ifa could stop him. I owe my life to the bravery and tenacity of the chief priestess. Had it not been for her I would be lying bound six feet under the ground stinking and decaying, while Konga ruled in my place. The most beautiful part of it is that she ascribed no glory to herself even though she surely deserved glory for all the trials she went through during her altercation in the other realm. You all know this! You were all there when she recounted her story. It shocks me that you would have me go against that power through ingratitude by not obeying the instructions I was given by she who saved me.”
“From the stories she told it is clear to me that no mortal could have faced the trials she faced without divine help. I know not the source of that power or what its purpose is, but I intend to follow and obey it.”
“But my Lord!!!” Oyinlola insisted rising to his feet. “The priestesses care for no one but the God that they serve. They are outcasts, relics of an ancient order and civilization that cares for no king and pledges all loyalty to a so called supreme being who governs the world and controls the stars. Sire you cannot trust these priestesses. Their agenda and mandate do not tally with our own.”
”DON’T SPEAK TO ME ABOUT MANDATES!” The Oba roared. They all jumped and Oyinlola sank down into his seat in a flash.
“I don’t know what their agenda might be, neither do I care. All I know is that there is goodness within Priestess Yetunde and I feel that goodness within my spirit. It’s that goodness I trust.”
“Sire...” Adekanye began walking into the room. “The priestess recounts her experiences as she fell through the other realm. She even speaks of battling her way out of the forbidden forest where as we are undoubtedly aware is impossible to escape from. Many of our hunters and strongest herbalists have journeyed to that place and none of them have ever returned. We only have the priestess word that she survived all those experiences. How do we know everything she said is true?”
Oba Abiodun turned on him with a look of such fierceness that a shiver ran down his spine.
“Were it not that you are one of my most senior chiefs, I would have you executed for the words you just spoke.” He snarled through clenched teeth.
Adekanye made his way to the only empty seat in the room on the right and sank down into its depths lapsing into silence. There was a heavy silence in the throne room for several long moments before the Oba spoke again.
“Now let us be about our normal discussions and let’s speak of this nonsense no more.”
His peace said he sat down on the throne with a loud thunk and the throne room lapsed into a heavy silence.
Ayomide sighed and walked into the room slowly.

Chapter Three

On the outskirts of Ife, a small decrepit hut lay on the fringes of the forest. An old man stood in front of the hut. He was stooped and wizen. He wobbled on his feet leaning heavily on a long cane which he clutched in his right hand. A few feet in front of him a bright fire burned. He stared into the bright yellow flames as if transfixed by whatever vision he saw within them. With slow stiff movements he reached into a long leather pouch slung over his shoulder and withdrew a dark brown powdery substance which he tossed into the yellow flames. The flames flared burning a bright green and thick black smoke poured from its depths in droves and filtered into the skies.
The old man slowly and painfully lowered himself into a sitting position crossing his arthritic limbs. He stayed still for several long moments to catch his breath before he spoke.
“Spirit of Ifa, god of our fathers, your humble servant comes before thee. For decades have I worshipped you. Show mercy to your servant by allowing me to appear before you.”
There was a heavy silence for several long minutes. Then the smoke drifting into the sky began to swirl around faster and take shape. A huge face with flashing eyes suddenly appeared in the floating tendrils of smoke.
“SPEAK!” It growled at the old man seated before it. The sound of the voice was as loud as a thunder clap on the empty countryside.
“My Lord thank you for honoring me with your presence.” The old man said bowing as low as his stiff back would allow.
“Things do not augur well in the kingdom my liege.”
“I know! Your king has refused to worship me. Instead he has thrown his obedience to Olorun. You have failed me Saworoide. Your ancestors pledged me this city’s devotion forever and now a dangerous precedent has arisen in the form of the priestesses.”
“Forgive me my lord.” The old man pleaded spreading himself down on the ground before the face in front of him.
“What would you have me do?”
“Nothing.” The voice said simply. The old man raised his head slowly to look up at the face in surprise.
“You shall watch the events that shall unfold slowly. I will have my vengeance on the family of Babatunde. Great shall be his punishment, but for now I will do nothing. So old man watch and learn.”
At that moment a great gust of wind blew scattering the wisps of smoke and the face disappeared.

A few miles away
Priestess Yetunde rose from her kneeling position and stood up facing the stone altar in front of her shaped like a waterfall. Eight of her junior priestesses rose up with her. She raised her hands to the altar in the tiny shrine they were in and prayed and supplicated to Olorun.
“Olorun Olodumare…Oba mi….dari ese mi…”
They prayed continuously like this for several minutes before Yetunde knelt down once more. Her junior priestesses did the same praying under their breath. Yetunde touched her forehead to the ground and raised herself up again, rising to her feet slowly. Her priestesses knelt down for a few moments longer before they too rose to their feet.
Yetunde sighed deeply and turned around slowly facing the others. She was five feet eleven inches in height with a round oval face and full red lips. Her eyes were striking, her pupils a very dark shade of hazel flecked with tiny lines of grey in the center. She wore a white robe wrapped around her chest, which stretched from her bust to several inches below her knees. Her hair was plaited into two big braids which were fused into a round bun on the back of her head. She had a circle of beads wound around each plait. She was a very beautiful woman who was unaware of how lovely she truly was. Her other priestesses were similarly attired and their gazes were locked with hers as they waited poised to receive instructions from her.
“That will be all my sisters. We shall retire to our quarters for food and to have our afternoon siesta.”
They all nodded slowly and orderly exited the small shrine in a single file with her bringing up the rear.
They stepped out of the shrine into the bright afternoon sunshine. All her priestesses turned to their right and walked towards another small hut which was two hundred feet away. As they walked off, Yetunde pulled to a halt and looked to her left in the direction of Ile – Ife. All of a sudden thoughts of Abeni filled her mind and heaviness filled her spirit. She stooped down immediately afterwards lowering her gaze to the ground. A hand touched her shoulder a few moments later and she jumped startled.
“I didn’t mean to scare you.” Mojisola her second in command said; the one who had risen within the ranks to replace Abeni. Yetunde sighed
“Be careful the way you sneak up on people. You might just send the person to the after life.”
“I am sorry Yetunde.” Mojisola said in a quiet voice.
“Don’t be.”
“Your heart still mourns for Abeni?”
Yetunde nodded slowly not trusting herself to speak as her eyes filled with tears. Mojisola stepped forward and put her hand on Yetunde’s shoulder.
“Don’t be sad. Think of it this way, she has gone to Ehin – Iwa; the after life to be with Olorun.”
“I k…n….o….w but that do….esn’t m..ake it any eas..ier to bear.” Yetunde stammered.
“No one said it would be. We must have faith. These are trying times for the whole kingdom. We have to be strong.” Mojisola said taking Yetunde into her arms and hugging her fiercely.
Tears poured freely from Yetunde’s eyes, streaming down her cheeks as she embraced Mojisola.
“I thank Olorun for sending you as a pillar of support for me. He always answers to our needs before we even voice them.”
“That is why he is Olorun.” Mojisola whispered into Yetunde’s ear. “Come now! Let us go into our living quarters and have our rest.”
Yetunde nodded slowly as they both turned around and headed to the hut which made up their sleeping area.

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