FOOTPRINTS - Episode 10

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“Byarugaba, I have come to you for help. My land and oracle…my position as the chief priest of ...

“Byarugaba, I have come to you for help. My land and oracle…my position as the chief priest of Bakuli is in grave danger. I can no longer see. I need your eyes to connect to the gods. I need you to speak to them and relay their words to me. There was a prophecy some years ago that the lineage of the late king of Bakuli who was killed many years ago was still intact in our land. As you would remember, my great grandparents lead the mutiny that overthrew King Damba and thereby installing my family as the custodians of the oracle of Bakuli. In a sense, we are the rulers of the land. I have done a good job of protecting what was handed down to me. However, the gods have deserted me all of a sudden. There is a young man that I suspect to be of late King Damba’s lineage. I need you to tell me what is going on,” Okwayi explained his predicament to Byarugaba, a revered priest in the neighboring town. Byarugaba was a quiet and wise man. He listened to Okwayi intently, nodding his head intermittently. “It is never a good sign when the gods desert a chief priest. I think the gods are angry with you,” Byarugaba said calmly. He proceeded to throw beads on the floor. He watched them spread and form a pattern. He read the pattern and shook his head.

“I cannot speak to you Okwayi. You should go home.” “You have to tell me what is going one. I need to know.” “Is your wife, Musubaho at home?” “No. She packed her things and left some days ago.” “Why?” Okwayi kept quiet. “A chief priest does not partake in the spilling of blood Okwayi. You have spilled far too many of them. You killed Kasumba Sebowa, the father of Bagamba, husband of Gonza, your own daughter. You were worried that he might be the great grandson of King Damba, so you struck him to death. Then, when you suspected that Kakuru, Bagamba’s brother who was suspected to be the father of Bitalo, the young man you are keen to spill his blood for the same reason (to prevent anyone from restoring the kingship of late Damba),  you struck him down. When did you become so evil, Okwayi?” He said nothing, staring blankly at the ground.

Bitalo is indeed, the great, great grandson of king Damba. Soon, he will be made aware of the fortunes of his family – gold, silver, lands and the likes that he stands to inherit. There is nothing you can do about it. The gods allowed him to be born in your household, then they led you to give him away, taking your attention away from him. You cannot play the gods forever my friend. The gods have spoken. A new king shall arise from the great land of Bakuli and you shall be subject to him just like your forefathers were subject to king Damba!!!” “That will not happen. We are the true owners of the land of Bakuli. The Dambas moved to Bakuli many years ago. They came from up north, somewhere around Lake Kyoga. They were slaves when they first arrived in Bakuli. My forefathers clothed and sheltered them, and then they killed them…they poisoned them and took over the land. Bakuli is ours. I am willing to shed my blood to keep our right. The Dambas will never rule this land again. I promised that to my father who made the same promise to his father,” Okwayi replied.

He was on his feet now, fuming with rage. “The gods are merciful to you know, Okwayi. If they wanted, they could crush you with their hands, and if you continue on the same path, they will very soon.” “I need answers Byarugaba; answers and not history. Where were the gods when their ancestors killed my ancestors for helping them? I will smother that Bitalo like a fly. Musubaho will die for bringing that evil child into this world…In my own household? Under my nose?” “And the gods made sure you did not see that Okwayi. There is reason for everything.” “I am through with you Byarugaba. You have not been helpful. I am ashamed of you.” “I play by the rules of the gods, Okwayi. I am not like you.” Okwayi walked out of Byarugaba’s shrine and headed home in frustration.

“Oh God, please bring my Najja back. What do I have to do to make her well? If you can hear me Najja, I want you to know that I am willing to give my life so that you can live. I love you beyond measure. You are kind, gentle, thoughtful and immeasurably loving. I need you…the world needs you. I wish I had the powers to save you!” “Actually you do,” A voice said to him from nowhere. Surprised, he looked around. On the opposite vacant bed in the hospital room sat his late adopted mother. She had a smile on her face. “Mama!!!” Bitalo called to her. “Yes my son. You are here?” “Sort of. I have been your guardian angel from the very day I picked you up by the roadside. The gods sent me there…they had picked me ahead of time to bring you into our home. They had me watch you all these years. You must go to Okwayi’s shrine. There, you will find an earthen pot in the inner chamber of the shrine. Inside the pot is a black jelly liquid. Scoop some of it and bring it back to the hospital. When you rub it over Najja’s face, she will wake up.” “But mama, I understand he is a dangerous man. He could attack me with his powers. He is a powerful man they say.” “And you are even more powerful than he is, but you don’t know it yet. When the time is right, the gods will reveal your full mission to you. Fear not what Okwayi could do to you. You are immune to whatever he has. You are a special breed.” “Me?” “Yes my son.” Like smoke in air, his mother vanished. “I wish I could hug you mama,” he said, wishing she would come back. He looked at Najja as she lay quietly on the bed. She barely moved except for the slight movement of her chest as she breathed.

Okwayi took a bus to Jinja, Musubaho’s hometown. He knew there was no other place his sixth wife could have run to except her home town. When he arrived, he found Nyatui, Musubaho’s brother roasting corn over a fire in front of the kitchen. “My in-law, you are welcome,” Nyatui said. “Thank you my in-law,” answered Okwayi. “Sit down and eat corn with me.” “I will sit down my in-law, but I don’t have the time to eat corn. I am here for my wife. I know she is here. She needs to return home.” “My in-law, you have five other wives, why are you so much in hurry to have Musubaho back home. Let her spend some time with me and my family.” “She is my wife, and I decide where she stays!” “You need to calm down Okwayi. What is the problem?” “Nyatui, I want my dear wife back. I need her at home. She is my youngest wife, and as you know, it has been cold at night of late. I would rather cuddle up to my youngest wife.” “You will never really get old Okwayi. Musubaho told me you are mad at her. She is afraid to return home. What is going on?” Musubaho who had been inside the house stepped outside. She froze the moment she saw Okwayi.

“You don’t have to be afraid my dear wife. Everything is fine. Let us talk. The gods are back with me now…the mistake you made has been forgiven. It is all well.” He lied. “Are you sure?” “Very sure my dear wife. I need you at home. My back hurts, and only you can give me that healing massage…and it is cold at night.” He walked closer to her and placed his hand around her waist. “I knew you would mellow down the moment your husband arrived, Musubaho,” Nyatui said. In a matter of an hour, Musubaho was on the bus back to Bakuli with Okwayi. As soon as they reached home, he had her join him in his room. While they lay beside each other, he began to ask her questions. “My beloved wife, I have forgiven you, but you have to tell me who is the father of that boy Bitalo.” While his hand walked across Musubaho’s body, she was fully relaxed. “You will not be mad at me if I told you?” “No my dear. I am over it now.”

“You know then, I was quite young and sometimes, you spend so much time with your older wives. I was really lonely. So, I began to take interest in one of your friends, to whom you sent me often on errands. One thing led to another. “Which of my friends?” “Byarugaba!” Okwayi felt a jolt in his heart. He wanted to stand up and strangle Musubaho, but he kept his calm. He had other plans…more sophisticated plans. His mind began to ponder a million permutations at once. So he is a descendant of the Dambas? My goodness. He was supposed to be my friend. How did this happen. He spoke about being upright, but he was sleeping with my wife behind my back…and he was supposed to be my friend. I have a charm for every lineage in Bakuli and around, but not against Byarugaba’s family. They are powerful medicine men. Now I see why I could not harm Bitalo. There has to be some way to get to him. “Are you angry with me?” Musubaho asked. “No, my wife. I am fine. You should return to your hut now. I feel great. What a great wife you are.  I have something for you…your favorite.” He walked across his tiny hut and fetched a loaf of bread for Musubaho. “I bought you bread from your favorite bakery in town.” “Thank you my husband. You are very thoughtful.” “You are welcome Musubaho.”

She returned to her hut, boiled some water quickly and made some tea. Then, she ripped open the bread, tore off a chunk and dipped it in the tea. She delightfully munched on it, closing her eyes as she savored each bite. Minutes later, she began to jerk. Her hands and legs jerked furiously and her body shook violently. “Okwayi!!!!” She shouted in stabbing pain. He stood by the door and watched as blood began to ooze out of her mouth. She died painfully, bleeding through her mouth and nose. “In your next life, you should not double cross a medicine man,” Okwayi said cruelly. As he turned to return to his hut, he saw the figure of a man walking into his compound. He looked at the figure intently. “Who are you?” He asked boldly. “I am Bitalo, the son of Musoke!” The voice answered unflinchingly. I am afraid you don’t know who your father is, Okwayi thought maliciously. Now, I will show you what Okwayi can do! He thought to himself.   STORY CONTINUES...

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Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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FOOTPRINTS - Episode 10 An African Literary Blog
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