Even though the sky was filled with thick dark clouds, all of the Puricans celebrated with us and welcomed us, not minding the looks of the heavy rain that might pour down upon us soon. The season of the rain was far from coming but it seemed the gods were pleased so may decide to bless us with rain anytime soon, I thought.
The weather looked so threatening, such as I had never seen before, with such heavy winds. I walked with my chest up holding the bag, and in the bag was the head of the great Redican king as promised. I knew the chief would be pleased with his gift; I gave him a kingdom and the head as he required.
We received a warm welcome from all the Purican mates and the mothers celebrated on seeing us. We had lost some good fighters but we had conquered the Redicans and that was all that mattered. The blood of our dear Purican brothers was not shed in vain. The Redican land had finally become our territory so with such great pride we marched straight to the palace to offer the gifts and news to the chief.
I did not notice Mother in the crowds; maybe she was busy preparing a meal for me or possibly worried, wondering where Oden had wandered off to.
In my heart I was disturbed, more disturbed and concerned about Anna and Baby. All I wanted was to hand over to the chief what he demanded of me and find my way out. I missed Anna.
All the newly ordained elders were outside. They welcomed us in and walked with us to the chief’s compound as thunder and lightning sparked the skies. They set up a big table that could host about eighty Puricans with all kinds of food displayed on the table; pork hung on sticks and many fruits on the table too.
As I approached the table, I noticed two things covered with garments on my left not far from the table and some oil buckets by the walls. The chief was seated already eating a chunk of roasted pork and imbibing the brew from a big jar in front of him. However, he was not drunk. He smiled on seeing me, chanted my name and stood up to welcome me, still biting his pork and gulping down his brew. He sighed, belched and dropped the cup on the table, threw the pork on the ground and wiped his hand on his garment, smiling while looking at me.
“I’ve never really enjoyed the taste of their flesh … humans! If it wasn’t for the gods and the fear of the one our power and protection comes, nothing would make me thirst for their smutty blood,” said the chief, “My young warrior, you’ve come, you are back! I knew only you could do it. What would the Puricans do without you, eh, my young warrior? What would a great chief like I do without you?” he added as he walked up to me and hugged me.
“This must be my gift, eh? I shall hang this alongside the rest and will make another stick for the head of the king of the next kingdom we shall conquer! As peaceful as the Adaganians maybe, I think this is a sign from the gods that we are powerful enough to pay a visit to their great valleys,” he added as he snatched the bag from my hand and threw it on the table. It landed on the fruits.
“I hate songs but I think I will make sure our new anthem heralds your name, Buga.” he enunciated.
I grinned and sighed trying not to allow praises from his tongue to elevate my spirit.
“Hmm, this is a delicious moment for me, Buga! The flesh left on that head I must taste. Taste I must! Yes!” he said as he clapped his hands.
Two of his guards left the compound and entered into one of the rooms in the palace. He clapped his hands again and more guards assembled themselves around us. They were well-armed. I turned and looked around. I was not sure if this was how to welcome any warrior.
“You know, I have been thinking … I want to have another throne made for me. I am tired of sitting on these … despicable bones,” he said, scratching his buttocks and picking his nose with the same finger.
“I want it made from the finest precious stones, decorated as befitting the great chief that I am, with the skulls of my two greatest enemies as footstools. Anytime I sit on it I will be constantly reminded that I am above those who made my nights shaky,” he said as he placed his hands on my shoulders.
“I’ve never tested you, my young warrior, I’ve never for once doubted your strength and might and most of all, your loyalty. Now, this is what I call trust, eh? You’ve earned the trust of your very great chief and that is why I will do anything to make sure you are worthy of my two beautiful daughters. Anything!” he said.
His daughters came out all dressed beautifully, but as they were about to rush towards me, the chief raised his hand and told them to halt. He then clapped his hands twice. The two guards who had left earlier came out, carrying someone who was laid on a moveable bed made of tree branches.
The two guards kept the bed between us. The chief then asked them to leave, so they walked away and joined the other guards.
The chief walked around, looking at me as though puzzled. He stroked his rough beard gently and was lost in thought for a long time.
“Guess who we’ve found this morning beneath the mountains, my young warrior? Your brother! All broken, shattered and in pain. My guards brought him here and we tried to treat his wounds but they were so severe that we could not save him.” said the chief.
I slowly squatted and reached for the garment that covered the face of the one brought on the bed. It was Oden.
“Your brother is dead, my young warrior, but … but before he died, he said something rather disturbing about … a human in some underwater cave. I told him he was lying. I was so mad I almost choked him to death because his words were so … so unwise. Well, he is dead anyway, but then I thought, what if he was right? I mean, he reminded me that you have never slayed a human before. I don’t have any problem with the choices any Purican makes about their diet. I had wanted to go down the mountains myself and check this … underwater … cave your brother talked about, but I said no, no! I must test my young warrior and prove that your dead brother was wrong. We need to prove them wrong, my young warrior, that you would not harm my own or your own…for any human.”
The chief was serious; the look on his face was clear that he did not believe anything that Oden had told him before he died. He then walked away and unveiled the two things on my left, covered with garments, which I had noticed earlier. The first was a human man tied up on his knees and the second was Mother, also tied up.
I ran to Mother with intentions of untying her, but the Chief spoke with strong hostility.
“Don’t you dare, Buga! I said it is just a test! So calm down, here … eh?” he said as he handed me a sword, “I want you to prove to the Puricans that you are indeed a true warrior, our own warrior! I will mention the names of the four past chiefs and you must decide with your own sword who should live between these two, before I mention the last of the four chiefs. If you do not kill one of them, I shall kill both myself! I shall kill your Mother, Buga, and I swear on my future beautiful throne if you do not, I shall have your bones crushed under the rocks!” he said as he turned away from me.
Immediately he mentioned the name of the first Purican chief, I looked into Mother’s eyes and saw her tears. I could tell her tears were not for what I was asked to do; her tears were for Oden. Maybe she was disappointed with me but she would not understand, none of them would understand, I thought.
The chief mentioned the name of the second chief. I quickly moved and approached the human, closed my eyes and lifted my sword high and made the journey painless for the human man.
“I told them you were innocent! I told them you are for us and not for the humans but they did not believe me. I knew you’d do anything to save what you love most, Buga. Indeed, I am pleased with you … indeed I am,” said the chief as he walked to me.
He relieved me of the sword with a smile on his face, walked and stood in front of Mother.
“The Puricans will never have a great leader like me, my true name says it all. I have sent two of my guards to find that underwater cave and bring my dinner to me. You’d do anything to save what you love, and you proved that by killing my only son? I also told them you are a fool,” he then lifted the sword and cut off Mother’s head, “Kill him and bring me his head!” he shouted to the guards.
I cried out and became mad at myself as the guards made a run toward me, pulling out their swords for slaughter.
I rushed the first flock, broke their arms, got hold of two swords and made sure that their heads kissed the earth. I wanted to get to the chief but more guards made their way in and tried to subdue me. I was in tears while I fought and I even bit the ears and necks of the ones I held.
Blood and dead bodies were everywhere. I had lost my mind. The food on the table was painted with their blood. The thought of Mother made me more furious and voracious as I slaughtered them, but I knew I had to get away from the palace or be killed, so I rushed for the oil and randomly spilled it all over the place. I also poured it on some of the guards. I grabbed a torch and lit the place, then continued to strike them one after the other leaving their corpses behind me. I killed all who stood before me and ran down the mountains. I could hear the chief shouting at them to chase after me; he sounded both angry and disappointed.
By the time I was halfway down the mountains, rain started to fall. The sky was filled with thunder and lightning. I knew I had to get to Anna and Baby before it was too late.
There was nobody on the way, not a single Purican. Maybe they had reached and captured Anna, I thought, but the more I thought about it the faster I ran. I didn’t care if anyone was following me. I got to the waters and dived in.
While under the water and approaching the pool, I could see traces of blood in the water and a body floating. I got out of the pool and saw Anna holding Baby.
I saw the body of one guard in the pool and another lying on the ground. A sharp object had been stuck in his left eye, going right through him and sticking out of the back of his head.
Anna was frightened when she saw me, so I had to calm her down and explain to her that we must leave before the rest of the guards arrive.
Anna fastened Baby on her back with a garment. I picked up another sword which lay on the ground near the dead guard and instructed Anna to follow my lead.
I dived into the pool and while under the water I turned to see if she was behind me. She quickly dived in with Baby on her back. I stopped swimming and held her hand. I drew her close enough to see her face under the water, noticing tears in those beautiful eyes. I then smiled to make her understand that everything was going to be alright. Baby opened his eyes and smiled as bubbles came out of his mouth. We swam away.
We got to the other side and luckily for us, there was no sign of any Puricans. I pulled Anna out and directed her on where to follow. However, her attention was more on trying to revive Baby, so she stopped. She shook Baby and breathed into his mouth, but Baby was motionless. Anna was worried and confused as she breathed air into Baby’s mouth and stroked his chest gently. Baby coughed and Anna smiled and jumped for joy. Baby cried and coughed. Anna ran into the bush and I followed them, looking back and making sure no one was following us.
As we walked away from the Purican settlement, Anna became exhausted. However, I insisted that we should keep moving.
We needed to get to a safe place. I knew of somewhere, but she insisted that I should allow her to guide us. Because she was familiar with the area, I followed her lead.
After walking a long distance, Anna led us to another cave up the mountain and we decided to rest there. The rain had stopped falling but the sky was still filled with dark clouds and it was already approaching nightfall.
Anna seemed to be familiar with where we were. I left the cave to go find something for Anna to eat. However, I could not get any food, so I returned empty handed. Anna only smiled. I noticed that while I had been gone, she had already smashed some rocks and made fire to keep herself and Baby warm. I asked her where she got the material to make fire and so she pointed deep into the cave. Why isn’t she afraid of the place? I wondered.
We sat down in silence and by the time the fire burned itself out, we had fallen asleep. A howl whistled in through the cave entrance.