On our arrival, the whole community came out to welcome us home. We marched through the settlement and arrived at the compound of the one whom they called the chief. Some of the invaders stopped at a distance with the dead body of the invader whom I had killed outside the palace.
I watched them gather the human parts and pile them all in one place. After all the invaders gathered, someone came out and examined the goods and went back into the chief’s palace. In an instant the chief came out, the invaders then bowed down and I bowed along with them but the chief asked me to stand up. I did so slowly.
One of the six elders broke the news of the dead invader to the chief. He laughed, hoping the elder was trying to tell a joke but after looking into our eyes, he became sad and filled with disbelief.
The body was brought forth and on sighting it, the chief cried out and tore his garment in grief.
“I told this fool to stay back but he insisted on going for the hunt. Where were you when my son was killed?” said the chief as he turned and stared at my direction. I went to my knees and uttered no word.
The chief snatched a sword from one of his guards and rushed toward my position. I held to my sword while on my knees and as I made an attempt to stand up in order to defend myself, while at the same time not exposing my intentions, the chief lifted his sword and decapitated the head of the one who had broke the news to him. The headless body fell right next to me, and the remaining five elders fell to their knees begging for their lives.
“Forgive us, have mercy, oh great one,” they spoke out of fear.
“You and your sons shall all pay for this. The first male of each one of you must be buried with my son and your daughters shall bear offspring for me… the one who did not birth a male I shall kill along with the new born,” said the chief.
I kept my head low ready to defend myself if threatened.
“Well, he got what he deserved for ignoring the instructions of a dear father. My beloved Puricans, let us inhume the dead and observe the feast!” he added as he stared down at me and wiped the blood stain on his sword with his garment.
The guards were sent to apprehend the first male offspring of the remaining five elders as ordered by the chief, including the first male of the one that was decapitated. While the guards went to bring them, the rest of the elders pleaded with the chief who was seated on his throne. The throne was made from human bones and decorated with their skulls on its arms. It was placed on top of a platform made from human skulls, with human limb bones laid over them.
The remaining elders begged for forgiveness but the chief kept a deaf ear to their plea. Some of the Mothers pleaded along but nothing seemed to dissuade the chief. When the guards brought in the sons of the five elders, the chief stood up.
“Well, to forgive…yes…yes I must! To forget? It is the easiest thing for me to do my beloved Puricans. I shall forgive and forget because it is the only way to move on, I shall move on and the Puricans must too, knowing none of these elders and their sons will be around to remind us of this great loss,” said the chief as he gave a sign to the guards.
The guards chopped off the heads of the five remaining elders and the six first male offspring brought before the chief.
“Offer the twelve heads to the oracle, spread their skulls under the foundation of the new temple as soon as the sun hides under the mountains!” added the chief.
The guards packed the heads as ordered and moved away while some carried the headless bodies of the six elders and their offspring to the sacred site where the chief’s son was to be buried. As we walked away, I noticed the Mothers bringing the human parts from the hunt to the kitchen to prepare for the feast.
We walked behind the chief as he led the way to the graveyard, and just as the chief declared; the bodies of the elders and their sons were buried alongside his son. Their graves were displayed to ornament the resting place for the chief’s son, and in accordance to the Purican custom, the relatives of the deceased fetched and ate the sands from the grave of their loved ones who had died in order to corroborate that they had nothing to do with whatever incident that might have led to the demise of their own. It was believed that if the hand of any Purican was stained with the blood of a deceased family member, they would be kissed by death and their corpse would be cut in half and thrown to the vultures.
By the time we got back to the palace, it was already sunset and food was served. I watched them eat and drink. The sight of one eating the cooked or fresh flesh made me vomit. I didn’t know why, but they always laughed at me.
“Son, have some fruits,” said one of the Mothers.
I smiled and as I was about to take a bite, she hit my hand and gave me some water to rinse my hand with.
“I taught you more than that, don’t shame me in the presence of the other Mothers, Buga,” she added disappointingly.
I rinsed my hands and ate the fruits she gave me while she sat beside me. Later, the one called Oden came to us. He addressed the one who served me the fruits as “Mother” and took some fruits too. I noticed that she did not eat the meat either. I wasn’t sure about Oden, even though I saw him eating the fruits with us and from the way he behaved, I could tell that the one who served me the fruit was related to me. It seemed that Oden was my blood brother. My memories began to flash back and forth, then I would readjust when it was clear, and follow the memories with a gentle smile.
The chief’s throne was lifted from its position in the palace to the place where the bonfire was set. The Puricans sat and listened to the chief’s boring speech around the fire that night and different sorts of food and drinks were served. Many rituals were also observed and after a while, the chief was taken back to his palace.
The one Oden called Mother then asked us to go home but as we were about to leave, the chief sent for me. Mother didn’t seem to like the sound of it but she had no choice and as I was about to go, she reminded me to carry my sword. I walked away with the messengers, leaving Mother and Oden.
By the time I arrived, the chief was already drunk and looking upset. I met the six Puricans whom he tearfully ordained as the new elders with oil and ash rubbed on their bodies.
“What do you suggest I do with them, my young and fearsome warrior? I, the great Purican chief, gave them the opportunity to serve the chiefdom and yet, they broke his heart,” questioned the chief.
I looked at the elders and saw sorrow in their eyes, Forgive was the word that came to mind. I did not know that I had said it out loud. “Forgive them? For abandoning my only son? The heir to the Purican throne who was slaughtered by the humans?” said the chief angrily.
“You have already punished the elders, Your Highness!” I said.
“Have I?” he asked.
‘Yes Your Highness, you have ordered their heads be offered to the oracle and be placed under the foundations of the new temple. Their headless bodies have been buried to honour your great son. Your Highness, these are the new elders you’ve assigned to take over,’ I whispered.
He then walked toward me staggering and smiling.
“Oh my, I must have forgot. You know, my young warrior, when you lose something greater than life itself you just wish everything will um…hmmm! Well, why wasn’t he as strong and wise as you?” said the chief, as he turned to the six newly ordained elders.
“Well, you lucky old bones … I have forgiven. You had better thank Buga, my young warrior here,” he added, before he fell to the ground snoring.
The guards lifted him up to his bedroom as the newly ordained elders thanked me and walked away. I walked into the chief’s bedroom with the guards. He seemed not to be aware of what he had done earlier. Luckily for the new elders, the chief did not order them to be killed before I came. For even while drunk, his orders were taken and executed by his guards without any question.
After a long talk with the chief while he lay on his bed, he raised his hand and told me to go away, so I turned to leave.
“If I do not do that, they will not fear me, my young warrior,” he joked and we both laughed hard.
“Ah! You, you…what can I do without you? You are one of my strongest pillars, Buga! Yes, yes, I must reward you handsomely!” He exclaimed as he lay down and began snoring.
After leaving the palace, I found Mother and Oden waiting for me. We went home together and I told Mother everything that happened. She wasn’t impressed.
“He had no choice but to do as you asked,” Mother said, but I had no idea what she meant.
“I also want you to know that I am tired of being a mother to two old grown Puricans. I want to play with your offspring. Look at the other mothers, they all have play friends!” Mother added as she talked about the many young Purican mates who would die to be my brides. She went on to mention name after name of almost all the young Purican mates whom she would prefer me to bond with. I loved Mother; she was special because she treated me like a youngling all the time. I did not know if it occurred to Mother that I was a great Purican warrior because she never saw me as one. Her words and the way she looked at me brought many good memories flashing through my mind.
That night, while they were asleep, I stole some of Mother’s garments and wrapped them in an animal skin and tied it so air wouldn’t go in. I also packed some more fruits and loaves she made from her kitchen. I took some of the juice which Mother always made from some of the sweetest fruits that she picked.
I ran down the mountains, and after a long walk I arrived at the waters and dived in, making sure nobody had followed me.
The human woman and the little human were asleep, but the woman woke up as soon as she heard the sound of water splashing from the pool. I unpacked the food and gave her the garments too. The human woman used them to cover herself and wrap the little human. I also gave her the food I brought for them. She then tried to ask me to open the cage, explaining that she would not run. However, I could not take that chance.
The human woman seemed to want to order me around. Maybe I was being too nice to her or maybe she felt I was too weak to resist her. She was right! I thought.
I could not remember how she got there and how I got to know about the underwater cave either, but somehow I believed she was safer in the cave than out there, where she would be hunted and eaten by the Puricans.
The human woman permitted me to play with her hair again and demanded I stay a little longer, but I had to leave because I did not want the Puricans to suspect me of harbouring their dinner. Before I left I made her understand I would come back. She then asked me to bring something to make fire the next time I was to come, because the cave was too cold for the little human. I asked her why she didn’t inform me earlier but she only smiled which left me with only one thing to do; I smiled back like a fool. I then looked around for some small rocks to make fire but I found none. I needed two good smooth rocks and some dry grass, barks or garments to make fire for her and the little human. I knew I had to bring it soon so I promised the human woman that I would come with the necessary items. I dived into the pool and because my heart was warmed by her smile the water felt so good and warm.
The next day my brother Oden woke me up by sticking one of his arrowheads in my nostril. It was already noon and I guess I was late for whatever his reason was for waking me up. Oden told me that the young Purican mates were at the stream and we should go see if we could find a mate as Mother had requested. I wasn’t interested but he persuaded me and in order to avoid the noise from his rattling mouth, we made a deal on one condition; he would not utter a word till we got to the stream and would not utter a word on our way back as well. Oden agreed but of course, it was like tying a thirsty elephant to a shrub by the pond.
Oden couldn’t keep his mouth shut on our way down the stream. I wondered how I got to live under the same roof with such a character. He was shorter than me; his head only coming up to just below my chest. Oden told me that he had been informed that the chief’s two daughters were at the stream with no guards. The question was — who would want his mate to be fathered by the chief? He wasn’t the type of Purican you would want to have your offspring play with.
While Oden was busy trying to assault my eardrums, we heard Mother’s voice calling. I turned and there she was, running down with my sword. Oden shook his head repeatedly.
I walked up to meet Mother. She threw the sword at me angrily and turned to go home. Poor old Mother gasped. The sword was very heavy for her to carry. I picked it up and my brother Oden took over from where he left off.
Mother was always kind and caring to me. There was a great resemblance between Oden and our father, more so than between myself and our father. I could swear it was better to have ten thousand bees buzzing in your ears for two moons than have Oden speak for a day. However, I think I tolerated him because I became fond of him. Oden was so full of life.
It took us a while to get to the stream, but from a distance we overheard the young Purican mates playing in the water. By the time Oden and I got into a good position to watch them, we spotted some individuals hiding in the bushes, who turned out to be Redican scouts. This was no time to think as I watched four Redicans advancing down the stream toward the Purican mates. One of the Redicans slipped and fell, allowing the mates to see him. They suddenly started screaming and began to run out of the water.
Oden suggested that we should go back and call the others. He was afraid but I assured him that I would take the enemies down. The Redicans approached with such malicious intent, chanting gleefully as they ran after the Purican mates. I had to jump from my hiding place and advance. Oden had no choice but to fire his arrows as well. He swiftly shot two Redicans from where he was standing and of course couldn’t keep his mouth from bragging about it.
I leaped across the stream, killed two Redicans with my sword and stained the stream with their cruddy blood. I grabbed hold of the fifth Redican and seized his spear, using it to kill the sixth one as I strangled the fifth one under my arm.
It was easy, I dealt with them like the way Mother made breakfast. The rest of the young Purican mates came to meet me, but the chief’s daughters pushed their way through and started touching my arm. I stood with great pride before them even though I had no love or lust for any of them. I just wanted to make Mother proud, for she deserved a play friend. However, the chief’s daughters were the last mates I would think of bonding with.
By the time all the Purican mates came out of their hiding place, the guards had arrived. They packed the bodies of the six Redicans and burnt them.
“These Redicans knew not who they were up against, eh Buga?” acclaimed one of the guards.
“You’ve sent thousands of their brothers to the afterlife in one night and yet six fools had the unmitigated effrontery to come against you?” added another as they all laughed.
I didn’t bother myself with what they said nor did I allow it get into my head; I just smiled at the young Purican mates and pointed at the shortest among them.
‘You, Mother needs a play friend. I will have Mother talk to your Mother,’ I said to her.
She smiled back. The chief’s daughters were jealous, but I didn’t care. She looked good for Mother and I think Mother had mentioned her name to me once before.
We walked home together with all the mates and the guards. By the time we got home, the chief sent for me again. The chief called me his young warrior. I recalled something that happened in the past many moons ago before he was ambushed during the last great hunt; one fateful day, our scouts claimed they sighted some humans and it was not harvest time. Usually, the six elders had to hold a meeting and decide when a hunt is to be launched, but the chief’s greed kicked in at the wrong time.
There was enough smoked meat stored but the chief felt it was his duty to lead the hunt and exercise his might with a little display of arrogance, so he ordered only a few guards to follow him. However, they were ambushed. All the guards with him were slaughtered by the Redicans. It was lucky for the chief on that fateful day that my brother and I were fishing, because Mother loved shark meat.
We witnessed all that happened and after they captured the chief, I sent my brother Oden to go warn our elders. I then traced their path, attacked and slaughtered each and every Redican, with the exception of two. Out of the two who survived, I made sure one carried the other, along with a message home.
The chief was impressed as he watched me fight that night and immediately he promised to give me his two daughters. However, I turned him down as I wasn’t ready.
There was a rumour that circulated in all the lands because of what had happened that night. It was claimed that the Redicans were setting up a secret army to hunt me down. It was also said that their leader was willing to give a generous reward to anyone who would deliver my heart to him.
We lived up the mountains, we had the sharpest scouts and the strongest of warriors. We were born fighters, we would go down to hunt and climb up the mountains we called home. I believed what I did put more fear into them. That was how the chief and I became close.
I was never trained like the rest; the day the commander of the Purican warriors made an attempt to test my strength and skills was the day his soul kissed the gates of the abyss.
According to what Mother said, the Puricans and the Redicans would never have peace because the Redicans used the humans as slaves and labourers to build their civilisation and raised their great walls, while the Puricans hunted the humans for food.
Hunting the humans for food was breaking down the chain of development for the Redicans. They were a race just like us, and we understood and shared the same tongue, just a tenuous conflict in certain words and matters. Even though the Puricans were a warring race, they consumed but never produced. Unlike the Redicans, who farmed to raise animals and crops, they dug the earth for precious metals and precious stones. The throne of their king was known to be made of precious metals and ornamented with two large red precious stones on its arms. Their settlements were more organised with a great display of luxury and style.
Well, by the time I got to the palace, the chief was flashing his brown teeth. He must have heard the news.
“My young warrior, you have done it again. How can I repay you, eh?” The chief said. “You have saved my beautiful daughters just like you’ve saved me from those filthy Redicans. Imagine the stories your offspring will hear of their great father! My two beautiful daughters are all yours. Take them and make them your brides, Buga! You don’t need to follow the old tradition of the Purican law of bonding, I will give to you a quarter of our mountains to rule as your own!” He was serious and I had a feeling he wouldn’t take my rejection lightly this time.
“Two sunrise from now we shall arrange a ceremony, for you and my beautiful daughters, eh? Chiamira and Yossandra will make fine mothers for your offspring,” he added, smiling.
The chief ordered the aides to bring the finest fruits from the storehouse and asked me to offer it to Mother. I left without saying a word.
I got home on time and tendered the chief’s gifts to Mother but she showed no interest. I don’t know why Mother never liked the chief. Mother had placed food on the table so I ate and after that we all slept. I woke up late at night and secretly packed some items for my human friends and tried my best to avoid being seen by Mother and Oden. I left hurriedly before sun rise.
Never forgot the sword after sunset and even if I did, Mother always brought it to me, that I was sure. I also packed some ropes and sharp tools, while on my way I cut down some bamboo trees and bound them together. Before I dived into the water, I arranged and kept them by the waters.
I got to the underwater cave and met the human woman. She wasn’t looking well. Her skin was changing its colour, but the little human seemed to be fine. She begged that I free them but I could not do that, as there was no place for them to go out there. I was not sure if she knew about what happened to her kind on the night when I had brought the little human to her. I gave her the food anyway, enough to last her for some time. I did not know what to do with them. I did not know why she was there or how she got there but I didn’t want them to leave. I can’t afford to let them leave me, I thought. Something made me feel that I should let her go, so I turned and looked at her for a while. As soon as she forced a smile out, I smiled back and dived into the pool.
Not long afterwards, I came back and opened the cage, tied a rope to her wrist and led her through the underwater cave and outside the open grounds. We stayed there until the sun came up. She shivered over the cold from the water but was so amazed to see the light again. The way she stared at the rising sun that morning made me think she worshipped it; the rays from the sun touched her skin and I saw her beauty before the light and was stunned. She looked so happy and wandered around but my attention was more on the surroundings for her safety. Yet, at the same time, I did not want to take my eyes off her. I made sure no one saw us.
Taking her back was not easy but she had no choice and neither did I, so I forced her while she screamed and cried for help.
When I got her back into the underwater cave, she tried to explain to me to always come and take her out to see the sun more often, I could not understand her language but I understood her gesture and when I gazed into her beautiful blue eyes, I saw the sun itself. She was simply amazing, her skin so soft unlike the Purican mates. I had also touched the skin of a Redican mate once when I was a youngling, not a match to the human woman’s skin.
Deep within me I knew one day I must let her go but I also knew that letting her go would be the same as killing her with my own hands. My race had almost wiped out her race in all the places we had reached. The Redicans hunted and enslaved her kind, while our race devoured them with no mercy.
I made fire to keep the place warm for them. I also took some time and began to transfer the bamboo trees into the underwater cave then expanded the cage for them. However, she did not look happy. I could tell that all she wanted was to be free, but I knew that out there they would not last.
I tried to make the human woman see that I meant good for her and the little human but she saw me more of a monster than a friend. I could not blame her. She later calmed down and smiled, I then remembered how it all happened; I was out alone searching for fruits when I sighted them from afar. She had been accompanied by two other humans and I had no idea where they came from. I watched them as they stopped to drink from the waters. I doubted if they knew about the other human settlement not far from the river. While they knelt to drink, some humans from a nearby settlement attacked them and killed the two humans that were with her before I could get to them. The attackers seized the human woman and were about to harm her, when I arrived and scared them away. She fainted at the sight of me, which made it easier for me to transport her to a safe place.
I was shocked to discover that even the humans fought amongst themselves and killed each other. What I saw that day made me feel that the Puricans’ unthinkable act against the humans was justified in a way. Do they feed on the flesh of their own kind too? I wondered.
I did not take her far. I had known about the underwater cave for a long time because father used to take me there. I was well aware that the humans in the nearby settlement would soon be attacked as well, so I did what I had to in order to keep her away from harm.
Father took his time to teach me a lot before he was killed. He used to tell me that every great Purican must have a secret in order to survive and also a place they go to when they need peace; a place no one knew. Once such a sanctuary was disclosed, it should be abandoned, for it had been defiled.
“The secret to lifting one’s soul to greatness lies in the mystery of conquering darkness by embracing the way of the light!” He used to say.
The Puricans used to transmigrate and only settled in areas with a good supply of food. It was always best to stay close to the source. We always preferred the mountains because it was a good spot for defending against external forces.
Well, I finished the cage expansion and told the human woman I would come back again. She did not hesitate to tell me to bring more food. Before I left I tried to see if she would let me carry the little human. Even though she refused, I tried to understand. She held it and protected it as though it were her own.
The human woman had made some new clothes out of the garments that I had given her the other day, and showed them to me. Later she looked sad staring at the walls in the cave and I could not understand why she wanted to go, so I decided to ignore the expression on her beautiful face.