FOOTPRINTS - Episode 11

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“Young Bitalo, what brings you to my compound at such an ungodly hour?” Okwayi asked. His voice was laced with arrogance. “I have c...

“Young Bitalo, what brings you to my compound at such an ungodly hour?” Okwayi asked. His voice was laced with arrogance. “I have come on an important mission. Najja is dying. It is important that I save her. In fact, I have been called to save her life, which I am more than delighted to do. I love her immeasurably. There is a concoction in your shrine that can restore Najja to health. It is important that I fetch it,” Bitalo explained. With a malicious smirk on his face, Okwayi said, “And what makes you think you can just walk into the shrine of Bakuli and walk away unscathed?” “I have been sent by the gods. My late mother appeared to me and delivered the message herself. I am confident that the gods sent her. “I wonder when you started hearing from the gods?” “Okwayi, there is not time to waste. Please could you lead me to the shrine?” Okwayi excused himself and ran into his hut. He returned promptly and asked Bitalo to come with him. They walked calmly into the shrine. Okwayi had a lethal powder in his hand. It was in a small pouch that he held carefully away from Bitalo’s view.

“This is the pot of the life-saving jelly, Bitalo. I will scoop some of it for you.” He proceeded to scoop some, which he placed in a container. He carefully added some of the lethal poison to the jelly he handed to Bitalo. “This will restore her health. If you were truly sent by the gods, she will recover. Otherwise, she will certainly die. First, before you rub this on her face, you should rub some on your face too. It will protect you from any evil that may threaten to befall you,” he explained. Bitalo agreed. He took the container and sped off, walking briskly back to the hospital in the dead of the night. “Bitalo!!!” He heard his mother’s voice out of nowhere. He looked back and there she was, standing in a blazing ball of light. She glowed like sun in the sky. “Mama!” He answered. “Throw the poison that Okwayi has given you away. It contains a deadly poison that will kill both you and Najja in an instant. Run back to his compound and walk straight to the shrine. Be not afraid….I will be with you. Scoop a fresh portion of the liquid and run back.”

Obediently, Bitalo sped off, flinging the liquid that Okwayi had given to him in the bush. When he reached Okwayi’s compound, he saw a light in one of the huts. Ignoring it, he walked boldly into the shrine and scooped a portion of the liquid. He sped off as soon as he could. All of a sudden, a wolf emerged from nowhere and chased after him. The head of the wolf alone was twice the size of Bitalo’s entire body. It was black and its eyes were red like blood. Thick phlegmatic saliva drooled out of its mouth as it reached for Bitalo. He ran as hard as he could, but the wolf was closing the gap between every second. “You will die!!!” The wolf bellowed. It had Okwayi’s voice. Fear zipped through Bitalo’s body and mind. He fell to the ground, quickly picked himself up and continued to run. Seconds later, the wolf was right behind him. “The gods of Bakuli may have left me…kept me in the dark, but my father did not leave me empty handed. He had me initiated into other shrines in the land. Shrines with immense powers. I will drink your blood,” the wolf said in Okwayi’s voice. Then, the wolf pounced on Bitalo’s neck, ripping through his skin like a blade.

“Mama!!!” He shouted, clutching his neck. A fire fell from above bouncing fiercely on the wolf’s head. The wolf retreated, growling ferociously. It eyed Bitalo as it circled the fire. “You are a warrior, my son. The gods hand-picked you from the generation of warriors from centuries past. Rise and face your fear!!!” Bitalo’s mother’s spirit shouted. She stood boldly in front of Bitalo. He rose to his feet all of a sudden, filled with rage and power. He stared the growling wolf in the eye and marched towards it with courage that surprised even himself. The wolf quickly transformed into a massive python and spat venom towards him. Bitalo raised his hand and a shield appeard out of thin air, blocking the deadly venom from making contact with him. In his right hand, a sword appeared. It glazed like a raging fire in the dark. Bitalo took a dive towards the python, striking it with mighty force. The python docked, but Bitalo managed to slash away a chunk of its tail. Bitalo’s strike was followed by a massive wail in Okwayi’s voice. The python shouted in pain and disappeared into the bush.

“What just happened mama?” Bitalo asked. “Now you are beginning to know who you are. You are a descendant of great warriors of this land from two centuries ago. They were fierce, mighty and feared in battlegrounds. They fought for the poor, against evil kings and for the good of the land.” “What happened to them?” “They were all poisoned to death by an evil kind. A few of them managed to scatter, running to lands wide and far. With evil powers and the help of powerful witches, the king traced them and killed them all…except one!!! One of your ancestors. The gods are out to reclaim the land. The evil king was Okwayi’s ancestor. Before that evil king, there was King Damba, a great and kind king. A descendant of the great warriors of our land. He was killed and overthrown by King Kamoga, the evil king. Okwayi will stop at nothing to kill you. Najja is the force that will see you through the battle ahead. You must run back now and raise her. Okwayi will be readying himself to strike again. Run, my son. Raise Najja and take her away from here. If Okwayi strikes her down, your light…your power will be fairly diminished.” Bitalo left, dashing towards the hospital.

Byarugaba sat in his shrine. He returned to the shrine after a fruitless effort to sleep. He threw cowries on the floor and read the pattern. He did the same thing for the twelfth time, unable to believe his own eyes. A dense streak of sweat journeyed lazily across his forehead. Then, a spirit clad in a black robe appeared in his shrine. “Do you doubt the gods?” The spirit asked. “I don’t…never. I am surprised by what I see,” he answered humbly. “Everything you see had been designed by the gods years and centuries ago. You are a true descendant of the Cwezi warriors of our land. Bitalo is your son,” the spirit said. “I never knew that. I felt guilty sleeping with my friend’s wife, but she never told me that she was carrying my baby.”

“It was all pre-designed, Byarugaba. The safest place to deliver the warrior that will free our land from the clutches of these evil men was in their own household, the last place they would ever look. Now, get up and get to work. Okwayi is raising the armies of his ancestors to fight Bitalo’s soft spot…to attack what he sees as his Achilles’ heel – Najja. If he raises a thousand men from the spirit world, you must raise two thousand to defend Najja. She is a chosen woman, a descendent of the purest family from the time of King Damba. She is Bitalo’s power and force. Raise an army from the spirit world and march to the hospital, to her father’s house, scour the forests and savannas of this land in search of any evil warrior raised by Okwayi. Kill them in their scores and hundred. Anyone you spare is a massive threat to Najja and Bitalo. Anyone you spare will come back to try to reclaim the land in the future. Go Byarugaba. Fight like a true son of the great King Damba!!!”  The spirit disappeared and Byarugaba took his spare and ran outside.

He threw the spare deep into the sky and watched it head for the moon. Then, it began to descend. The moment it hit ground, five thousand spirit soldiers, visible only to Byarugaba’s eyes appeared. They were armed with swords and shields. Their faces were painted white in part, and sweat dangled down their broad chests as their muscles gyrated rhythmically. They separated in two groups leaving a path in-between. A warrior king rode a horse through the path until it was in front of Byrugaba. “King Damba?” Byarugaba asked. The king raised his sword to acknowledge him. He hopped off the horse and dug his sword into the ground and another five thousand soldiers emerged. They hummed a war song as they readied for a repeat of a similar battle two centuries ago.

Okwayi turned back into man, bleeding on his back. He took his charm back out; found a lotion in it which he rubbed on his wound. The wound dried instantaneously. He fetched a black liquid from one of the pots in his shrine and drank it. He spat the liquid out with force. Each drop quickly formed an ancient warrior, armed to the teeth. Each warrior was stocky, dark and menacing in appearance. There were two thousands of them. Okwayi did the same thing again, shouting afterwards, “Come my ancestors….come! It is time to reclaim our land and forever destroy the Damba clan. Come fight with me. Let’s break their descendant, Bitalo’s backbone, Najja. She is as brittle as a mirror.”

Bitalo held Najja’s numb body in his hand. Bagamba and Bernadette watched keenly. He carefully rubbed the lotion below Najja’s nostrils and then all over her face. At first, there was no sign of life in her. Then, he did the same thing again, but there was no response. “Please wake up my granddaughter,” Bernadette prayed, clasping her palms. After the third time, there was still no meaningful sign of Najja coming back to her normal self. Her chest rose slowly and fell back down. Bagamba was torn apart as he watched his daughter. “I know you are there my ancestors,” Bitalo said all suddenly. “The gods, I know you are with me…with us. Please come and raise Najja. I can no longer breathe without her. How can I work and fight without the love of my life? From where do I start without the one whose smile puts fire in my belly? My legs are weak and my spirit tired. Please bring by my sunshine. I know you can do it!” He closed his eyes and rubbed another portion of the lotion on Najja’s face. She sneezed weakly for the first time in several days. “Najja!!!” Bernadette shouted excitedly. Bagamba knelt on his knees and held her hand, staring excitedly into her face. Tears of joy began to roll down Bitalo’s face. Najja opened her eyes and stared at Bitalo. “I am glad you are here my love. I am glad you are here!” She said calmly in a low tone.   STORY CONTINUES...

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Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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FOOTPRINTS - Episode 11 An African Literary Blog
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