Read Red Mud II here:
Read Red Mud here:
Silence. There were no sounds of torture or crackle of fire nor the fast paced beats of the war drums. The wind calmed and the river receded from the banks just as Edjo r ame slowed its dance to push their boat farther down the river. Isio stared at what a few moments ago had been her hometown. Her eyes filled with sorrow and tears as she took in the wreck. The day had started perfectly with the sun’s rays seeping through the small holes in her matted window. It was good until the time she had cooked a nice bowl of owho soup with boiled yams and was about setting clay plates for the evening’s meal for Uvo Nefe – her husband. It was good just before the masked warriors had stormed into her house. Images of her husband’s butchered body sprang to her mind; blood and lymph mixing in the mangled pieces. Tears streamed down her eyes and unto the single wrapper tied around her chest. It was the only property of hers that had survived the fire. Isio fought to stay strong for if she had any doubts about her son, the night’s events had just dispelled them. For why else would the water spirit choose to help them in this time if not to protect the chosen one?
Isio unhooked the golden necklace from her neck and dropped it into the water as thanksgiving to Edjo r ame. Even though she was grateful, her heart swelled with sadness at Omẹ’s death. It was such a painful way to die. Too painful for a young woman who was just anticipating her final marital rites due in another week. Her and so many promising Ake were slaughtered. All because of what?! Isio thought angrily.
She sighed. She was tired – angry, tired and alone. She stared at her baby’s face and noticed in surprise that a thin cut had appeared right down the middle of his forehead; his yellow skin now red where the cut appeared. She was sure the women had not carried out the markings as was the custom. So how then did this appear and how come her baby slept peacefully despite the cut looking fresh and the chaos from the attack? Isio tucked her thoughts to the back of her mind – drawing the corners of the wrapper over the cut. When she got to Urhie, she would see an Epha diviner for answers. For now she would bask in the thin threads of their escape and bade her farewells to the spirit of Omẹ.
Back at the camp, the General walked as fast as his feet could carry towards the campsite where the rest of the warriors were gathered ready for the next order. He paid them no mind as their curious eyes followed his strong silhouette towards the Royal tent. The two guards mounted at the entrance knelt as he approached. He took a deep breath, nodded at the guards and entered into the tent. It was warm inside and smelled of banga soup. They must be having a feast, the commander thought as he stood tentatively at the entrance, his eyes falling on clay pots strewn over the mahogany-carved table.
Ovie Nefe II sat at the head of the table reading a brown parchment, a sly smile curled at the corners of his lips. The General coughed and knelt just as Ovie Nefe II looked up. The General watched pensively as the sly smile slowly transformed into a thin line. Ovie Nefe II looked him over – his way of assessment.
“What is it!?” he spat.
The General stood to his feet, regaining his confidence. He must try to save his neck.
“Are they all dead?” the King asked, his exotic leopard skin robe straightening as he stood. He was just as tall as the General, just as imposing but where the General was light-skinned, the King was dark. He had broad shoulders and strong thick muscles that stretched under his dark skin. Atop his head was the Royal crown – a beaded cone shaped mound that glistened in the flames from the candles.
“The entire place has been submerged under water” The General answered.
The King raised an eyebrow and cocked his head. “Under water you say? But are they all dead?”
The General’s hand gripped the hilt of his machete anxiously. He swallowed.
“Reports reaching me said a few women had escaped using the fishing boats at the docks”.
“Ahaaa”, said the King – dragging the exclamation slowly. “And did these reports somehow say my brother’s wife escaped?
It was a direct hit on the nail’s head. The General swallowed another lump.
“Yes. A warrior reported seeing her get in the boat right before…before” he stuttered.
He was trying to avoid mentioning the water spirit. That would irritate the King further and he could clearly see lines of that irritation already forming at the corner of his eyes. Ovie Nefe’s eyes formed two dangerous slits. Something was off and he did not like the sound of it. His eyes scanned the General a second time. He looked shaken and afraid but not by Ovie Nefe’s presence. Certainly not. The kind of fear he – Ovie Nefe – instilled in people was more menacing.
“Before what General”?” he asked slowly – a muscle throbbing in his throat. The General gulped.
“Edjo r ame” he whispered but the King caught his words. “It…it just rose above the warriors like a…like a..”
“How many men!?” the King asked, his voice shaking with anger. “General how many of my men are dead?”
“A hundred and eighty and still counting” the General responded, casting his gaze downward.
“A hundred and eighty!!” the King bellowed, hitting his hands on the table. “A hundred and eighty of my warriors are dead but the one simple pig I asked you to retrieve from that cursed place has escaped! Do you hear yourself General? Damn the water spirit! Damn the swine!”
“Were they any survivors from the tribe?” he asked after a long pause. His tone was dangerously low and the sides of his mouth twitched as he spoke.
“Gather them at the trenches. And get the erhare!” the King barked. “My mother’s cunt if I let one esi (pig) live!”
The General moved swiftly through the muddy tracks of camp, bellowing orders at the frenzied warriors who worked at the camp’s prisons. They released the frightened crowd of Ake – the aged, the young, the women and frail men – beating them with long whips so that they walked in a file towards the trenches. They were covered in dirt, blood and shit. The General wrinkled his nose as the stench irritated his nostrils. He stood straight beside the King who equally looked on at the crowd with disgust. The remainder of the Ake tribe filed into the trenches, begging and pleading.
Ovie Nefe II thought how he hated them. From their skin right to their charms, he felt nothing but disgust for them. He hated that the water spirit would favor such an accursed people. The mysterious and glorious Ake tribe – he mocked – now reduced to nothing but beggars hinging unto his mercy. Where’s their charms now?
“My King, the warriors are ready”
“Muegbe” he said. The warriors raised their bows, drawing the arrows tight. The people in the trenches cried out, their eyes wide at the sight of the red fire writhing from the arrows’ tip. Somewhere in the crowd, a woman raised her son. He was two years old with a dirty matted hair. Tears streamed down their faces as she mouthed pleas for his life.
Ovie Nefe II raised his hand in the air and with one sweeping look of hatred he screamed “Esi!”
His hands fell to his side just as the warriors released their arrows. Blood spattered on the muddy walls of the trench as the people screamed in horror. Their skin was alight with red ire that cackled wildly. The smell of charred flesh filled the air as the screams of the crowd reached their heights. One body tried to struggle up the muddy walls, but the General released an arrow, engulfing it in flames. Soon the screaming quietened to muffled coughs until there was nothing but ashes.
“No more fuck ups.” The King said, staring into the eyes of the General “Or next time, it would be you and your kin under fire”.
“Yes your majesty”. The General said, bowing his head.
“And get me that esi!”