The Nkpani warriors were swimming vigorously across the river towards the Nko-rians. They had left their guns behind – no point carrying guns with empty cartridges. Their machetes were tucked in their waist straps so as not to slow their pace.
* * *
Whether Obodo stuck first or next was a controversy for another day. But, one thing was certain; his left eye was lost, revealing a spacious socket and threads of veins. While, the viper fell with a sharp cut on the centre of its black, shiny skin.
A mortal would have died within a minute of such savage sting, such unnaturally vicious attack that ripped the face of one of its most sensitive features, but Obodo just knelt. He indubitably felt the pain, or was it anger? His untouched eye grew wider, resembling a map with bloody lines stretching all over. His muscles pumped, accentuating every contour on his painted body.
He stood upright and looked at the snake with grave fury, and then he shifted his gaze to the Nko warriors who had been like spectators to the clash of the titans.
The Nko warriors, in their multitudes, began to back-step. The hysterics on Obodo’s face was undeniably petrifying. It seemed like a wire in his head had been roughly cut. What was terrifying was the fact that there was no blood in the socket that had held obodo’s eye.
Obodo looked down at his staff on the ground. It was obvious he wanted it. All he needed to do was conjure it. And that was exactly what he did. He stretched his hand towards it and it rose, and straight to his open palm, it came. Then he looked at the Nko warriors with a burning flame in his empty socket, and he pointed his staff at a section of the men with an unhidden determination to unleash an immolating flame on them.
At the sight of Obodo’s staff, the men stepped back, tension undeniably on their faces. Eko was in the front roll. Has the end come? He pondered. So, I won’t get to see Muka and Nnanke again. It was the thought of Nnanke that scared him the most. He had promised that he was going to come back to her in one piece, but now, he was beginning to think the realization of that pledge might only take place in heaven.
I shouldn’t have left her alone. At most, they would have called me a heartless man. What else? What else? Oh Nnanke, my love, our meeting again is no controversy; it is the drumbeat of our supremacy – Jimmy’s lines.
But, a glimmer of hope remained, a colossal one rather – Ugbojon. Where he had been, no one could tell. On seeing him, their confidence bubbled back and the haze of fear was blown away.
Ugbojon appeared in front of obodo and held the staff. Obodo looked hard at him. He reciprocated the stare. For what seemed like a minute, there was what one could refer to as visual exchange of ferocity between them. It appeared Ugbojon had acted wrongly by holding Obodo’s staff. The staff was Obodo’s, and he alone had the right to hold it. Its destructive control was customized for him alone by his god.
With one swift move of his arm, Obodo’s staff rammed into Ugbojon’s waist with an unbelievable force that flung him towards his warriors. The men spaced out as Ugbojon landed on the ground.
The Nkpani men had started to come out of Timkpo. When they saw Obodo, they halted.
Ugbojon stood immediately. The blow was a hard one, but not hard enough to cause complete incapacitation. He took steps forward and pointed his arm at Obodo, and lightening fleashed towards him. But, Obodo was quick to vanish into thin air as the strike got to where he stood.
Ugbojon gave a vicious laugh, then spun around and joined Obodo in the invincible realm of diabolism.
The men stood and watched, stunned beyond action; Nko warriors on one side and the Nkpanis on the other side. Although, they could not see their warlords, they felt their presence. Anyone could have. There was a noticeably powerful twirling of wind, a raging whirlwind. It was like the kind of wind that was usually accompanied by torrential downpour. But, this was a little different because it only moved around in circle at a particular spot between the opposing warriors, spinning particles and dust.
It was a spiritual Kepu; wrestling of the spirits. For what seemed like five minutes, it continued, producing ear-splitting, whooshing sound. Then the sound and force of the circling wind started to reduce. A few seconds later, it stopped completely, and the two supermen were seen. One lay on the ground, while the other looked down at him with staff in his hand.
One would have thought it was Ugbojon that was on the ground, but he wasn’t. So one could understand how momentary the elation of the Nkpani people was, and how sad they became when they discovered their leader, Obodo, motionless on the ground with is head cracked.
How it was done, they didn’t understand. But, the reality of it stared at their faces.
Ugbojon held Obodo’s staff. It had become a useless stick with pieces of red clothes tied around the edges. He raised it up above his head towards the sky as though giving thanks to his gods for his monumental victory; victory that would always be remembered in the Nko-Nkpani history; defeat of the strongest and fiercest warrior in the region of Yakurr.
The Nkpani warriors, on seeing this, began to retrace their steps. Retreat became inevitable. How could they keep fighting when their leader had fallen? Obodo, the unconquerable Obodo. If Obodo could fall, what chances had they to stand if they fought? They began to dive back into Timkpo.
Ugbojon turned back towards his warriors and shouted, “Attack!” and the men pursued, stepping on Obodo’s body as they ran after their enemies. Some of the Nkpani men were caught before they could dive into the river and were killed. The others were given a nice chase. those that were caught were, with little effort, torn apart by the sharpened steels of the Nko warriors.
How bloodily red Timkpo became?
* * *
Despite the chief priest’s yarn, king Abang felt no tinge of pessimism. As a matter of fact, he had unshaken conviction that his men would conquer, as they always had. He understood the fact that Nko was bigger than Nkpani, but he thought they would be taken unaware, and that was a huge advantage.
As he walked out of the door, anxiety was evident on his face. He walked along his veranda to a seat that overlooked the dark forest. As he sat, he saw one of his guards on the far end of the palace, overtly watching him with duty-ful interest. His personal guards were the only able-bodied men that didn’t join in the confrontation. The king had to be looked after.
King Abang looked towards the forest, imagining what could be happening beyond it, in the village of Nko. Yes, that’s where the attack will hold. He reminded himself. He felt he was too lenient. All he had ordered was the death of every male and the head of their king. His father did worse. He remembered.
Four decades ago, when he was much younger and his father was king, two Nkpani men were discovered missing. The king had consulted the chief priest to determine the whereabouts of these men, and it was discovered that they had been killed by the Udaga people – a small village that was like two kilometers in the forest away from Nkpani.
His father personally led his warriors to Udaga while the villagers were asleep, and all the men were brought out, and had their penis cut and roasted before their very eyes. They were then butchered one by one from the arms to the feet, and finally, they had their necks slashed, driving the machetes slowly through the soft bones of their necks.
The women were stripped naked and paraded round the village, after which they were brutally raped by the Nkpani warriors, before they got killed.
The kids were not left out. A very large fire was set and they were all thrown into it and cremated alive.
I should have done the same to them, King Abang thought. But, of course, he knew he couldn’t. The Nko people were much too big and powerful to be treated that way.
While he thought, his gaze was at the dark forest. He saw something come out of the dark forest, but wasn’t sure he had seen clearly. He cleared his eyes and looked harder. But then, the thing had shown itself to be a man, one of his warriors precisely. He stood. The guard also saw the approaching man and ran forward towards him with his finger firmly around his matchet.
“We have fallen!” The warrior shouted as he ran, panting heavily like an exhausted Alsatian.
“What?” The king screamed.
“Obodo, the lion of Nkpani, the greatest in battle, has fallen.” The warrior stopped when he was within three metres away from the king. He crouched, trying to catch his breath.
“Obodo?” the king called. “It can’t be. They could not have got Obodo. Anyway, how about the others?
The guard rose up and said, “We started retreating after Obodo fell. But they followed us and, and…”
“What?” the king roared impatiently.
“They killed many of us, your majesty. We lost.”
“No!” the king shouted. He was a brave man. Also, he was an ardent believer of optimism. He wouldn’t loose hope, unless, in fact, all hope was lost. It was not over until it was over.
“We would never loose. My father never lost and I will never loose. Obaselowi has never forsaken us,” But, he never even supported this war. He didn’t say this last statement out.
“We’ll fight until blood ceases to flow in our veins.” He stopped and looked at the warrior, then asked, “Are the others coming back?”
“Yes, your majesty.” The warrior answered as men were seen coming out of the bush. “They’ve started arriving, your majesty.”
The king turned to his guard and said, “Go to the chief priest and tell him to come to my palace right away.”
“Yes, your majesty,” The guard said and departed as more men emerged from the forest.