I'm so sorry for the long wait. please bear with me. here comes chapter eighteen. Other chapters will follow shortly. Cheers!
While the warriors of the 7 Hausa City States traveled down the eastern roads, so as to take on the Tuaregs from an angle they wouldn't expect, Juba divided his warriors into two groups. One group, led by Mekani, Kubu and Dogo, was to travel down south through the western roads. The other group, led by Juba and Mayo, with Duefe assisting, went straight down south. A Zulu Impi was sent ahead to gather information and clear the roads.
The Journey down south lasted 3 days. The residents and kings of every kingdom they marched past wondered what was happening and sent messengers to inquire from them. It was only then a lot of other kingdoms realized they were at war, wether they wanted it or not. They had no choice but to send their warriors to join forces with Gor. As the days past, their numbers increased. And when they finally reached Oyo, they settled briefly. The next evening saw them close to the river that separated the Bini Kingdom from Utho Era. Leaving Utho Era for later, they marched straight to the Bini kingdom. The place looked peaceful. There seemed to be no war or unrest. Deba, recognized as the daughter of Ezodo and princess of the kingdom, was let in through the tall gates surrounding the kingdom. She went in with Mayo and Duefe only, leaving instructions for Mekani upon arrival. He was to take charge while she and Juba were away.
Inside the city, the residents went about their businesses normally, like nothing bad was happening. Juba, through Deba, narrowed his eyes to a slit. Different thoughts ran through his mind even as his heart jumped for joy at being home once again. This was his land. It was where he grew and where he first learnt everything he knew. Children ran about, playing. Activities were normal, but something was amiss. The women were dressed in their usual clothings and walked in groups to the market, but the men were dressed in war clothings. Guards were stationed at strategic positions and they eyed the men with Deba, suspiciously .
It was when they got to the white washed fence surrounding the palace that two huge men with loin cloths wrapped around their waist and a heavy steel sword in one hand, approached them.
"Princess." The first man spoke. Juba smiled, recognizing him
"Dahome. I am surprised you still remember me". He spoke with Deba's voice
"We all remember you and your father and mother. The last we heard, you volunteered to be Izogie's chief maid. And then your mother disappeared. Now the same man Izogie was given to in marriage, has come to hunt us".
Juba sighed. "I see you are well informed."
"We must be. But we do not understand why. As I speak with you, Utho Era has fallen. A lot of our men are out there, at the boundary, fighting against the warriors of the Tuaregs to see if we can buy sometime until help comes. A runner just reported to me. You have a large number of warriors outside the city. Could you be the help we've been waiting for?"
"Maybe. It is possible" Juba replied. "And these are my men", he gestured at Mayo and Duefe. "We need to speak urgently with whoever is in charge, so we can speed things up.
"I am in charge. The Oba has been locked away in his shrine, communicating with the dead and seeking answers to the problems we now face. But I am sure he will see you. Come with me".
The men followed Dahome into the palace compound and into a small building just behind the palace. In the building, they followed a narrow passage and emerged in an open yard.
"Both of you wait here". Dahome instructed Mayo and Duefe. Juba continued with him. They walked briskly across the yard and took the door in the opposite direction. They soon got to the Oba's shrine room. He was dressed simply in white wrapper and beads. He knelt on the bare floor before the gold cast images of Ogun, Olokun.
"I thought I instructed you to not disturb me?" He asked Dahome without looking back.
"You did, my father. But the people here may just be the answers you seek. Ezodo's daughter is with us".
"Ezodo?" He turned and gradually got to his feet
"Not Ezodo," the chief priest said, emerging from behind a tall wooden statue. "Juba".
"Juba? What is that?" Oba Oliha asked.
"I see through. Ezodo is Juba. He is now a god and he possess his daughter's body", He finished, coming to stand in front of Deba. "What happened to you?"
Juba smiled. "You are the first person seeing through my daughter, my old friend." They soon locked themselves in a tight embrace.
"It has been a long, long while. We all thought you were dead. Ezomo assured us you were."
"Ezomo will do anything to save his neck, so will his wife and daughter." Juba pulled back to look at him. "After all, a fruit never falls far from it's tree".
"Ezodo", Oba Oliha called, taking few steps forward
"Uncle." Juba walked up to him and bowed. But Oliha raised him up and went for a hug.
"After you and your brother left, your father was very sad. He remained sad and eventually fell ill. On his death bed, I promised him I will look after both of you".
"I remember that promise. I was here".
"Yes. But then, the sad news of your death rendered that promise useless. How did you come to be like this? Tell me everything".
"We have a war to fight, Uncle. But of course, you need to understand some things first. So I'll be as brief as I can".
"Come, let's sit". Oba Oliha led Juba to the east wing of the shrine where several stools were arranged. The chief priest and Dahome joined them.
Less than an hour later, Oba Oliha sat, shaking his head after Juba had finished his story. "A lot of deception has taken place. Power truly intoxicates and turns a man's heart for the worst. How could your brother be so cruel?"
"Like I said, my brother is not the only problem. If Yuwa succeeds in getting her hands on the bronze image of Ogiso Igodo and then gives it to Prince Daoud, we are finished. They will take over the lands, even up to as far as Egypt. The Tuaregs are mostly after Gor though. They want us destroyed because of the massacre we unleashed when we broke free from our slave masters in Mombasa and then Gao. We killed a few of their relatives too. For that, they want all our lands and our people to pay. Its more like a revenge mission. And I'm afraid both my daughters are very much involved in this".
"She came here once, Yuwa." The priest said, as he remembered. "She asked to see the bronze image of Ogiso Igodo. But we were having a ceremony that time and it was impossible to let her see it."
"She may try again. Or, if Prince Daoud wins this war, he will have his hands of it. We can't let that happen."
"We won't." The priest assured him. "You have suffered a lot because of your brother. News reached us. He has fallen. When Prince Daoud laid siege to the kingdom, his daughters and wife pledged their loyalties to them, so they were spared. But not the army. They've all became possessed".
"I don't think we should waste more time". Dahome spoke up. "If they are after you and your kingdom, they must know that you have strength in numbers too - the Hausas are behind you and so are other smaller kingdoms. Like you said, they are gearing up for a final show down in Gor. We should stop them before they even reach us here, let alone the other kingdoms".
"I agree." Juba rose to his feet. "But first, I need Ogiso Igodo's bronze statue".
"What will you do with it?" The priest asked. Brows raised.
"The sorceress I talked about has blocked my visions. I can't see ahead. If we move like this, we might walk blindly into a trap. The statue will help get her blockade out of my head. I only need to posses it briefly. And then I need a piece of it for something else. It will be returned, I promise".
"I have always trusted you my old friend. Come," the chief priest got to his feet. "I will take you to it".
It was almost Sunset when they set off for Utho Era. The Bini warriors, led by Dahome, joined Juba's and together they marched for Utho Era. For they were certain, Prince Daoud was resting with his warriors after conquering the land, as well as other surrounding kingdoms.
They reached the outskirts of Utho Era at night. Lightening flashed through the cloudy sky. Thunder rolled, announcing the possibility of a heavy down pour. The borders of Utho Era were heavily guarded by sword wielding Tuaregs. One by one, Juba, Mayo, Dahome and Duefe, although the less skilled among the warriors, took them down without allowing the rest of the army join them. Once done, the entire army marched past the border and and headed straight for Ede, the main city, as the small villages around were already burnt and deserted.
A mile away from the white washed walls surrounding Ede, they spotted activities from up the wooden watch tower Ezodo constructed years ago. He had insisted on constructing it for the security men, to make their jobs easier. Unfortunately, the enemy was now using it to their advantage.
Now closer to Ede, the city's gate opened to reveal riders, armed to the tooth, positioned, waiting for the last command. But only one person walked through the gate before it was locked again behind her. Izogie. Her red flowing gown rubbed the ground as she made her way towards the men. Juba sighed, watching his daughter approach. Deba, in her father, looked on with so much regret. If only things had been as they should, her sister wouldn't be stepping out to challenge them.
"Leave me with my child", Juba instructed the men. "No matter what happens, do not interfere. If things go as planned, we might win this war without having to lift a finger."
Izogie stopped a short distance away from the horse men. "My master asks," she started, "have you come to surrender? Or have you come to fight?"
"Izogie," Juba unmounted his horse and took few steps towards her
"Stop!" She ordered, "there is a line before you, a few feet away. If you cross it, I'm instructed to kill you",
"But you won't".
"I will. Those are my orders".
"You must not obey those orders".
"Says me. Do you know who I am?"
"Yes. My father in my sister's body. Whatever Tira did to me shows me only the truth about anyone or anything I come across. I've known for a while now my real parents and siblings. But my mind and actions are hers to control. Whatever she orders, I must do".
"Izogie," Juba stepped forward
"Do not cross the line. I will fight you to the death if you do". She threw both hands sideways in a swift manner. The result was fire bursting out of her hand and turning her eyes red. "I will kill you. Do not cross the line ". This time her voice was that of many gods talking from one source".
"I see." Juba said, gently moving forward. "She possessed you with a crystal from the brothers of the shadows."
"You have your last warning" Izogie said, eyeing the line closely, "once your feet touches that line, I will strike". Her palms folded into a fist. Gold flames emanated from them
"You can fight this". Juba insisted as his right foot finally touched the line
"I can't." She roared into the night air and charged towards Juba. The flames from her fist jumped, spreading all over her body. In a twinkle of an eye she became the female but most wicked version of Mayo. A fire giant made specially for destruction and death.
Upon reaching Juba, she threw a fiery fist. Juba moved out of the way. Dahome and the other men drew their swords but Juba cautioned them to stay put. Izogie attacked again and this time, she was locked in battle with Juba. The fire from her body inflicted severe burns on Deba. Deba cried within. But Juba kept on. He fought with blows enough to send an ordinary man to his death. At an unguarded moment, Izogie got hold of Juba, picked him up and flung him across the open field. He crashed hard to the ground. Not giving him space, Izogie was soon by his side, raining blows on him. He blocked with one hand and managed to use his free hand to quickly pull out from his waistband, the piece of metal he took from the bronze image of Ogiso Igodo.
While Izogie raised her hand for another blow, Juba swiftly drove the sharp end of the piece into Izogie's heart and then rolled away from her when she screamed and fell down. The fire burning from her body slowly began to die down and her body took on its normal form, as she rolled about in agony.
The gates of Ede opened then. Tira, Prince Daoud and 29 of his finest men approached.
"What did you do?" Tira was the first to bark as she moved over to kneel beside Izogie writhing about in agony. She looked sad as she watched her most prized creation screaming and thrashing about violently. "What have you done to her?" Tira asked again, shooting angry eyes at Deba.
"What you will never understand", Juba replied, moving back to stand with his men while favouring his right arm. Deba's clothing sustained terrible burns. So did her skin. Juba should have healed her body. But he would not, at the moment. Especially not before Tira. She knew him too well. Any attempt to use his powers meant her discovering his presence. So he receded to the background and let Deba take over.
To be continued shortly