Red Mud II

Read first post Red Mud here: https://jessyburche.wordpress.com/2018/11/05/red-mud/

From tired eyes, Isio could see Mama Ibe drawing lines and loops with a white chalkonto the wooden door. She spoke rapidly, casting the incantations in hurried breathes. Dark shadows thick as smoke from a raging fire rose from beneath the door’s ledge, hovering inches below the thatched roof. Isio knew the charm all too well. The úhohowould shield them from the warriors providing only a temporary relief for the refugees. It would cover the fishing stall in a thick black shadow giving the women time to clean after the newborn and mother. Isio burst with gratefulness – thanking each woman as they wrapped the baby in an old cotton wrapper. They paused when they heard the drums reverberate through the doors. The beats were fast paced powerful thumps that spoke of blood and war. The women held their breaths, a collective fear of being noticed hanging in the air. When the drums faded and the pounding feet of the warriors were but a distant sound, the Ake women urged Isio to her feet. In no time the charm would fade and who knew what next.

They were a haunted tribe. Hated for their powers and the colour of their skin by Ovie (King) Nefe II of Rhie. Once they were a revered people, then they were feared and now they were subjected to tyranny. It was these reasons that fanned the women’s courage to step out unto the wooden shack and into the unknown. A gust of wind pushed back the tight coils of hair from Isio’s face. Their plan was to make for West as far as the Ethiope to Urhié; the land of many rivers. At least there they would find allies; non- enemies of Ake. Isio felt sore all over as she walked slowly amongst the women. A fever was taking over her small frame, her vision was blurry; her legs cramped but in a time of war – safety came first. She shivered at the thought of what could happen if any Ogbú caught her. They would first defile her before hacking her as was their custom – No they would certainly do worse. She forced the thought to the back of her mind. She was alive and so was her child. The chosen one. She smiled at the thought. One day this would be over and peace would come clothing her people in comforting hands. Yes. Peace. Now they had nothing; tomorrow they would have everything.

They trudged down the wooden steps that led to the open docks by the sea. Stilt houses surrounding the water were alight with wildfire that crackled madly in the dark as smoke filled the women’s nostrils. Isio could see a body bobbing in the water; she dared not take a longer look for she feared recognition. They congregated by a small boat decorated with circles of native white chalk and charcoal. The women hurriedly filed into it, cutting the ropes that held it to the dock. Somewhere above them, the drums resounded and the Ogbús shouted – they’ve been spotted. It would not be long before the warriors – dressed gallantly in the mask of the warrior spirit – would take them hostage. The wildfires bounced the imposing monstrous silhouettes of the warriors off the water’s surface. Isio could make out the imposing shape of their infamous masks. Wooden masks shaped with a large forehead and a thick protruding hump at the top. In its large mouth were jagged shark teeth. Blood stained the rough surface – human or animal – Isio couldn’t tell. They were making the bend now, their arrows ready and lit with erhare (red fire) – the one that killed her kind.

It happened in a slow dragging motion. The Ogbús raised their bows above their heads, firing with zest and hatred. The arrows flew steadily through the thin air at the boat that was slowly heading towards the middle of the river. Isio knew what would come next if the erhare hit just one of them. She feared what it would be like but something else caught her eyes – an angry bubble that broiled and swirled into a monstrous heap high above their heads. It spurn and spiraled violently like a crazed masquerade in a dance battle, gathering with it a strong wind. High up in the thundering sky, Isio could see the gigantic cam wood red encrusted mask that made its head with two elongated horn-like features protruding from the top; tilt like an angry bird. In the light from the lightening sparks, Isio sighted huge pigs’ teeth dangle from its headband. Lightening stretched and thunder rumbled into the night sky.

“Edjo r amẹ” Isio gasped.

The water spirit lashed at the warriors, its force shattering the wooden docks so that wood and splinters tumbled into the depths of the water – carrying with it a good band of the warriors. The women on the oars paddled faster trying to get distance as yet another flock of arrows were shot. This time one missed the mighty hand of Edjo r ame and pierced Omẹ in the neck. Isio stared horrified as the woman screamed painfully. Her skin was alight with red flames that spread rapidly, charring her flesh. The women cried and screamed knowing they could do nothing for if one of them touched her, they too would roast. They watched as Omẹ screamed and choked under the writhing erhare until there was nothing but a lifeless reddish-black flesh that toppled over the boat and into the river.

The water spirit gathered a mighty sheet of water that rose just as high as its head. It was a thin sheet so Isio could see the warriors push back in a frenzy, falling over each other as they struggled back to the stalls. It was too late. With a force so powerful the sheet of water crashed over the stalls and matted huts of Ake’s tribal home; flooding the wooden tracks and immersing the small village into its depths.

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