Oyinade Episode 8: “Blood and Fire.”
Akinrinade and Lagelu quickly headed back to the east camp where they found everything in order. The leader of the guards wondered what to make of this. Had someone unknowingly put crayfish in the food of the guards or had it been a deliberate attempt to weaken their defenses?
“My Lord, I think it was a mistake. Not everyone knows the taboo…” Lagelu said sadly.
“But I told Chief Oyemakin’s wife not to put any seafood into the meal. I didn’t want to reveal the secret so I just told her that. Could it be that she got me wrong?”
“But we all ate of this meal didn’t we?” Another guard said.
“Yes we did, pounded yam and vegetable soup, just like they did. But we ate ours with the chief.” Yet another guard said.
“We need to tell the king.” Akinrinade concluded.
“On a day like this? It would spoil his joy,” Lagelu reasoned.
“It is better for his joy to be spoilt and we get to the bottom of this matter than for us to hide it from him and he be caught unawares.”
Leaving half of the remaining guards at the east camp, the remaining six followed the leader to the palace. On their way, each one pondered on the events of the previous night, refusing to dwell on the fact that twenty-three of their fellow comrades had just been murdered by an unknown person. If their deaths were as deliberate as they feared, it meant that war was coming. Each man thought about his family and what the end of the day would turn out to be.
Lagelu, now the second-in-command doubled up to the commander. “But my Lord what does this mean? Is Chief Oyemakin trying to usurp the king?”
“I don’t know. Let’s get to the king first.”
In the palace, King Adegbite paced the floor of his room, trying to calm himself down. He’d been up since the early hours of the morning restless and unusually fearful.
“But why today?” he wondered out loud, looking out of the window at the women who were pounding yam in wide mortars. He watched the smoke from the firewood rise high into the sky and felt an enormous sense of alarm about the wedding.
In the distance, he saw Akinrinade and six of his men heading towards the compound. They were supposed to spend the entire day, guarding the borders. Why had they come here so early in the morning? Had something happened? Quickly, he put on his royal cap and grabbed his irukere.
Meeting them in the middle of the compound, he questioned Akinrinade.
“What is it? Why are you here so early in the day?”
“My Lord, trouble has happened!”
After Akinrinade narrated what had happened, the king was certain that the event of the previous night was no coincidence. War was coming.
“How many of you are left?”
“Just thirteen, including myself.”
“Are there any warriors left in the village?”
“Yes, but only about twenty of them. The rest are retired.”
“Go and gather them.”
“But what would we tell them? We don’t even know if this was just a mistake…”
“My lord, do not be angry, if you don’t not consider me as forward, may I speak?” Lagelu asked.
The king observed him and then said to Akinrinade. “Who is this?”
“Lagelu, son of Oderinde, he’s one of the best.”
The king observed him once more. “What do you have to say?”
“I think that we should just gather ourselves and be alert. Since we do not know what this is really about and we do not want to arouse unnecessary suspicion, I suggest that we let the wedding take place. Let the princess be settled in her husband’s house and happy, before we pursue an inquiry into the death of our comrades.”
The king thought on the suggestion. “And what do we tell their families?”
“We tell them that they were detained at their posts because of the wedding. Let us not cause panic on a day like this.”
The king thought to himself and then faced Akinrinade. “What do you think?”
“My Lord, if today was not the princess’s wedding day, I would have said that we should get to the bottom of this but I know you want her to have a good day. So, let us wait at least until the ceremony is over.”
Again the king thought hard, Akinrinade was telling him to pursue this quickly, but like he said, he wanted his daughter to have a good day, one that she would never forget about.
In Oyemakin’s compound, Oyeleke was eating moin-moin and drinking warm pap. He was dressed for the wedding and looked forward to seeing his bride and the wedding night. The king’s hasty decision wasn’t so bad after all. Even though he hadn’t been ready for married life he was beginning to warm up to the benefits of being married. He could have all the care and attention he needed and still have as many women as he wanted. Whatever the case, it favored him.
A shadow cast across the entrance to his bedchamber. It was his father’s.
“Why are you still eating?”
“I didn’t know that you were ready.”
“You didn’t know that I was ready? Did I not tell you that we would be waiting for you in front of the compound?”
“Do not be offended, I forgot.”
“You forgot?” Oyeleke shook his head. “All right, let’s go.”
The wedding was in full swing. There was an abundance of food and drinks and Ayangade and his troupe beat their drums passionately, knowing that an impressive performance would guarantee a bonus from the king. Children danced excitedly, hands stained with palm oil. The women danced and talked energetically, looking forward to the presentation of the bride. They wondered what she would wear, how gorgeous her beads would be, and how intricately woven her hair would be. The groom’s family had presented their gifts and paid the necessary monies. It was time for the bride to come out.
Oyinade’s head was covered by a red, white and gold aso-ofi. She felt the hands of her female relatives on her arm, guiding her towards the crowd and singing wedding songs.
“Dance properly, stop being lazy!” she heard her aunt snap at her when she slowed down her dancing. This was to be her most joyous day yet she struggled to put thoughts of Iya Adigun behind her. It hadn’t helped that she had had another dream the night before but it had been different from the previous nights. The black pot with the red cloth had been smashed into pieces, its content strewn all over the ground. Her relatives, prodded and encouraged her to dance, forcing her to snap out of her reverie. One of her aunts stopped the current song and raised another:
We want to reveal the bride!
We want to reveal the bride!
Now spend money, we want to reveal the bride!
Oyinade felt it before the others did. The earth quaked, she stood still to be certain that it wasn’t a figment of her imagination and then she heard the silence of the drums.
“What is happening?”
She heard the crowd murmuring. She attempted to uncover her head but an aunt held her hands down.
“No, no, no, don’t uncover your face, it might be a gimmick!”
Oyinade did as she was told, but the quaking became stronger and then they heard the voices.
Fire and blood! Fire and blood!
What is our vow?
Fire and blood!
Oyinade uncovered her head and saw the first cutlass in the air and then the others. An army of about seventy, sweaty, blood-thirsty warriors was heading towards the party. Immediately, the crowd dispersed. Women and children screaming in fright. The warriors as if inspired by the fleeig crowd began to run and scream, slashing the residents with their cutlasses, stabbing them with shiny long knives and clubbing them with heavy wood.
In a matter of minutes, the residents of Iluope lay dead and dying, the injured ones moaning in pain and fear. Blood was spattered all over the hitherto peaceful land. In the open air, women were violated by the marauders and even children were not spared, they lay dead, mutilated and injured, their innocent blood forming crooked circles and sinking into the ground. A crippled man had been clubbed to death, and rolled into a burning hut. In the middle of the market square, the Iyalode lay awkwardly, her wrapper was gone, her legs thrown apart.
Olabisi, along with other members of her family had been chased by ten men into the bush, suddenly they found themselves surrounded.
“Where do you think you are going?” The leader of the pack asked.
“They look royal. Who is the head of your family?” said another.
Olabisi and her family members looked at one another in fear.
“Are you all deaf?”
Still they said nothing, Oladunjoye, her immediate younger brother began to urinate on himself.
“All right you, you with the big breasts, who is your father?”
Olabisi answered fearfully. “Akinrinade…”
“Isn’t that the man we beheaded at the riverside?” The leader said to the rest of his company.
“Yes, the one who couldn’t tame his mouth.”
“So you are his daughter? And the rest of you women?”
The females nodded.
“That is good. Ajao would like to take them as prisoners. Kill the men, take the women.”
As Olabisi and her female relatives were taken away, they heard Oladunjoye screaming.
“My mother! My mother!”
King Adegbite could hear the marauders coming, this was the day he dreaded the most. Someone had betrayed him and in a twinkling of an eye, he had lost everything. His town would be a dunghill, his name would be forever linked with shame and the end of a successful family line. He knew that he would be killed if found. Was he to die in disgrace after all, would his wives and daughters be defiled and he stripped and beheaded like a common prisoner?
The king thought on all that happened after the death of Iya Ajike, a darkness had been unleashed on his land and he knew that it had come as a result of her death. He would finally pay for his crimes and Iya Ajike couldn’t save him. Suddenly he heard her voice distinctly in his head.
You may only use it thrice in your lifetime. If you use it a fourth time, it is death… there are times when a king has no choice but to do a hard thing…
Swiftly he dived for the gourd and opened it, and as the first marauder barged into his bedchamber, he gulped down its contents.
“What did you do?”
The intruder slapped him but the king could barely feel it. His stomach burned from within, he clutched it, cried out once and slumped to the ground. As the light faded from his eyes, he thought of his favorite child, Oyinade.