The beginning of the next day was uneventful in Nko. As early as eight ‘O’ clock, the sun shone brightly as though it had been tickled by God. The people had just started going to their farms. In less than an hour after eight, Nko was almost deserted. The kids had gone to school, while the men and women had gone to their farms, leaving the aged and the children at home.
The only matured man that could be seen was Ojongbo. He was the son of Ogobolibo, the most powerful man in the history of Nko. Ogobolibo could appear in the enemy’s camp during battles to cause havoc. He was the most feared warrior in the whole of yakurr.
When he died, there were speculations that he transferred his powers to Ojongbo. But, since there hadn’t been war since then, there had been no opportunity for confirmation of their speculation.
Ojongbo, like this father, loathed farming. he was roughly the same age with Eko. All he did to survive was poach on people’s farms.
At the moment, Ojongbo was eating what the Nko people called evan dam, under a tree. This was the use of fried fish to eat Eba. Five people could use a piece of fried fish to gormandize a bowl of Eba. This is how it was done. They would bring the fish close to the nose, inhale the aroma, and then swallow three successive lumps of Eba.
This process would continue until the eba finishes. Some of them, after having finished the eba, would wrap the remaining fish in a piece of paper to be used for another round of Evan dam later.
Sometime, when Ojongbo had no money to buy the fried fish, he would go close to the fish seller with his bowl of Eba. While he perceived the aroma, he would swallow his lumps. He preferred this system because it was less expensive and much more satisfying as he had unlimited access to the aroma.
After having furnished the large bowl of Eba, he drank some water from the kettle beside him and then belched. He stood up and started walking towards his house. As he got to the door, he thought he heard his name. He turned and looked around. But, saw no one, so he went ahead and tried opening the door. This time, he heard his name clearly. He turned nervously and looked around, but still there was no one around. He felt his blood go cold and he quavered. He forced the door open and jumped into the house.
When he got in, what he saw dazed him and he was nudged backwards. He rubbed his hand over his eyes to clear his vision. The face of his father suspended in the air and stared at him coldly.
“Ojongbo, do not be afraid, it’s me, your father.” The mouth on the face spoke.
“You scared me,” Ojongbo said, in a quivering tone,
“You must be strong, your people need you right now. The Nkpani people are on their way to attack them in their farms. You must go right away. Check under the bed; there’s a bag in there. Take it. It will help you,” And the face disappeared, leaving Ojongbo confused.
It took Ojongbo about five minutes to regain control of his nerves. When he started thinking normal again, he turned towards the bed. Walked to it, squatted and started looking for the bag.
Surprisingly, the bag was just beneath the bed. He wondered why he had not seen it since he started living in the house. He could swear the bag just got there. But, he didn’t have time to waste. So he took the bag out and sat on the bed, rummaging through the contents.
He found three equally cut pieces of black clothes, cowries, colored chalks and an ugly looking glass. Ojongbo picked up the glass and stared at it. The reflection he saw scared him and he dropped it back. He saw a viper staring back at him. Then a voice said, “Speak to the glass and it will obey. Speak to it. Speak to it,” The sound echoed.
Ojongbo did as he was commanded and immediately, he turned into a viper. Then he roamed round the house a bit as though to get accustomed to his new status. He changed back after a few minutes, and then ran out of the house with the bag towards the bush.
* * *
Beautiful tall trees surrounded them. The trees shook with overwhelming placidity. The air was fresh and natural. Green plants covered the dark fertile ground. This beauty was the reason for the euphoria Eko and Muka basked in despite the enormous work. Having left the house before dawn, they had worked for nearly four hours. So, they decided to rest while they ate.
While eating they talked and laughed heartily, unknown to them that their noise had given them away to the Nkpani warriors who were looking for heads to deliver to their Obol.
Eko heard a rustling sound behind them. Being a hunter, he had very sensitive ears for sound. He didn’t flinch. He just listened harder. While Muka kept talking to him, he listened. Then, he was sure he heard the sound closely behind him and instantly, he reached out for his matchet. When he turned, he faced two brutal-looking men that looked like Hottentots. They were about to strike with heir machetes when he dove for his.
One of them went after him, while the other held Muka. Sparkles accompanied the clashing of steels. They both continued to strike forcefully and lethally at each other. The Nkpani man swung his machete at Eko’s head. Eko weaved by dashing to his right and then kicked the man’s groin, throwing him off balance. The man fell to the ground and lost grip of his machete, giving Eko a chance to strike. Eko came over in a split second and struck vehemently on the man’s forehead, splitting it into two halves that fell apart exposing substances neurosurgeons alone can describe.
Eko crouched over the man, trying to recuperate. Then he remembered his mum and the other warrior. Immediately, he bounced back and held his weapon with both hands, ready for another battle. But to his surprise, they were gone. “Muka!” he screamed in the quiet forest.
“Muka!” he shouted again, his voice echoing all over the forest. Then he heard her scream some distance away. Immediately, he started running towards the direction of the noise
The bush had been taken by the Nkpani warriors and it seemed the Nko people had become hostages. The Nkpani people divided themselves in pairs and attacked Nko farmers, beheading them. The usually serene forest suddenly became very noisy as every Nko person shouted to notify his fellows of the attack.
The Nko people didn’t understand the purpose of the attack. It was completely unanticipated. So, they began to retreat to the village but fought when they had an encounter.
Muka was being nudged around the bush towards Nkpani by her captor. She stopped moving and attempted to hit him. He held her hand and struck her on the face, sending her to the ground. Then he held her hair and started pulling her up. when she was upright, he heard a sound behind him and turned to behold a viper. As he raised his machete up to strike, the viper flew and stung forcefully at his right eye. He held his eyes and screamed, “Owoye!” It is the native exclamation used when hurt.
Muka looked at the man and then the snake. It was amazing how this snake had come to her rescue. The Nkpani man fell to his knees with his hands still over his eyes, then convulsed.
Muka looked at the viper, uncertain if it would attack her. She just stared and hoped it wouldn’t. Shortly after, the viper turned and crawled away, leaving her staring after it.
Eko was running fast to rescue Muka. His speed was reduced by the shrubs that crossed the path. He couldn’t see them, but he knew he would catch them if he moved faster. While he ran, he got a kick on his ribs that sent him colliding with a tree with a thud. Momentarily, he lost consciousness and just lay where he was.
The person emerged from the bush. It was an Nkpani warrior. He walked up to Eko and knelt beside him with his hand on his neck. He was elated he had got a head. As he raised his machete up to detach Eko’s head from his body, he got a sting on his neck. He held his neck shuddering and then fell to the ground afterwards.
Muka was running back to meet Eko, when she saw Ojongbo kneeling in front of someone. She had almost run past him when she recognized the man on the floor. It was Eko. She rushed over and held him close, “What happened to him?” She asked, in a scared tone.
“Don’t worry. He’ll be fine.” Ojongbo assured her. She saw the man beside them and the wound on his neck. She knew he had been bitten by a snake, but she was more concerned about Eko to ask questions.
“Look after him. I’ll be right back,” Ojongbo said and dashed out. He came back with a calabash of water which he poured on Eko. Immediately, Eko came alive. He looked up at the two faces in front of him, misconceiving Ojongbo for the Nkpani captor. He sprang to his feet and was about to attack when he recognized him and held back, “Ojongbo!” he uttered.
“Yes,” Ojongbo answered, “How do you feel?”
“I’m fine,” he answered, relaxing his muscles. Then his mother walked up to him with a smile that caressed his face.
Ojongbo moved uneasily. He was anxious to get back to battle. He finally said, “I’d better move ahead. I suggest you two go home. Be careful. The Nkpani warriors are all over.
“Why? Are they attacking us?” Muka asked.
“I think so,’” Ojongbo said and ran away with his bag on his shoulder.
Several hours later, the Nkpani warriors continued to search for heads. They got some, but some of them were unfortunate – they confronted the viper. The Nko people fled the bush. Not that they weren’t brave, but they wouldn’t fight such uncertain battle.
* * *
When it was noon, the Nko people had almost all arrived at the village. While the women ran with their empty baskets into their compounds, the men went straight to the Obol’s palace to explain the situation.
The Obol of Nko’s palace overlooked the hills covered in lush green vegetation. Obol Kobogo sat outside in his royal chair, enjoying the sweet caress of the breeze. While he enjoyed in this placidity, he saw two men running fast towards him. They were his people. He stood up and waited for them to get to him.
When they got close enough, they threw their hands in the air helplessly and shouted, “The Nkpani people attacked us!”
The Obol walked closer and asked, “what did you say?”
“They came. They attacked. They beheaded our people.”
“Where?” The Obol asked, his temper rising.
“In the bush.”
“Why would they attack us?” he asked, rhetorically. “Why should they?” He truly could not comprehend the situation. The last time the Nko people had a war was five years ago. And that was with the Agoi people.
While he was fuming silently, he saw three other men coming from the same direction. Blood was on the head of one of them.
“Obol! The Nkpani warriors attacked us,” one of them said. “They killed my brother, but I was lucky to escape.”
“You,” the Obol pointed at the injured man. “Go and treat yourself.”
“Okay, your majesty,” and he left. When he had gone, the Obol turned to the men in front of him and said, “I need to see every able-bodied-man in Nko. Anger was evident in his voice. When they had gone, he spun around and took giant strides into his palace.
One of his guards was beside the door as he got in. He spoke sharply to him, “Go and get the town cryer to announce that I need every able-bodied man in Nko in my palace right now. I also want to see every medicine man!” When the guard left, he turned and thought; we shall have heads to sacrifice to our gods.