C7 CHAPTER SEVEN
The lone rider galloped while gazing into the road ahead, almost trampling over some pedestrians who gave way amidst curses- “Shangofire you!”… They shouted after him, when they were sure he was out of ear shot. It was the messenger of theAlafin, where was he riding to at this time of the night,… they wondered, “I heard the man has not been well for a couple of days past”, “ahaaa!”, the other fellow exclaimed, “I too have not been well, but I have not sent my servant to gallop through the town and trample over innocent citizens”. “Or has the Dahomean army started their advancing into Oyo?” The other fellow reasoned,” I heard there was likelihood for that”. “Well I do not see any good reason why the old man should send his servant to kill the citizens before their time!” the other fellow retorted with obvious irritation.
The rider carried a message from theAlafin- the implication of that message was to have resounding impact on their lifestyles and to affect them in more ways than they had imagined. The Oyo had established traditional authority in Yoruba land and its environs for decades, but all this was about to change- The group of riders moved slowly, it was still early, the sun could be seen casting a faint light from beneath the horizon. It did not appear in a hurry to rise…, some of them were still sleeping on their horses, they had hurriedly left their camp where they had spent the night,Lamidikept hissing- obviously being the saddest of them all. He had hoped to reach Abomey in less than a fortnight;Shangomust be against him- he thought- What did theAlafinwant with them? Could it not wait? Why was it this time of all times?- He tagged along, many things going through his mind- The messenger had followed them with instructions to come back with them, there was a problem with theEgbado, and could it not wait? He had his own problems…he hissed.Segunlaughed, “It is for your own good my brother, and you can now go home and defend your family and if she is truly a soldier then you will see her in battle. There is going to be a war, you should go and prepare”.Lamididid not even hear him, his mind already drifting.
He had been an unhappy man for some time now, and just when it seemed he was coming to the end of his travails, he has to return to Oyo, was itJakuta?, surelyOludumaremust have turned his back to him, the gods are surely angry. Had he not suffered enough? He had offered the necessary sacrifices to appease the gods, or was it theOlorishahe appeased? It had cost him a fortune to perform the ritual and still his problem remained. Now he was going to the root of it and the Alafin calls him back, he will surely die.
The problem in the empire had lingered on for a while now, the traditional authority of theYorubapeople was showing signs of breaking down, although its neighbors already suspect this, they were all being cautious- the Oyo will not fall so lightly- And yet from within, the cracks were beginning to show, the Egba and Egbado towns were restive, a civil war was rumored. Their worst fear may yet come upon them; there was a force working against the Oyo, to what effect?
Lamidipondered about the situation all day, he was alone, his wife had served hisfufu, and he could barely open it. Outside the children were playing, and for some time he wished he was a child. She had come to him silently that night, he believed she only wanted to have sex, but now looking back he was not so sure, he tried to remember if he loved her, was it love?, then why does it consume him? His wives pitied him; me Lamidi an object of a woman’s pity, a son ofShango- I must do something about the situation.
The Alafin can rant all day for all he cares, but he must find a solution, he reached into his pocket and caressed the talisman he had been given by thebabalawo, it did not help. So they could not cross the Egbado country due to civil uprising, there must be another way. He must control the situation; he seemed to be losing his mind. MaybeJakutawas punishing him for betraying his wives, but Yoruba men can have as many women as they want, the Alafin had eight, then why not him?, he could care for them.
The priestess sat on the floor of the sanctuary which was made of mud smoothened in a circular form, although the work looked like one finished by an amateur, for a roof was an arrangement of cow hide spread over wooden poles interwoven with ropes, spread over all these was an overlapping thatched arrangement. Perfect for the purpose- seated before her was Lamidi holding a cock which had already resigned to its fate. The place looked like a shrine; obviously enough effort had been put in to achieve that goal.
She began chanting incantations and tossing a couple of cowries upon the rabbit hide she had spread before her, Lamidi appeared more nervous than the cock he was holding, she stretched fort her hand and he handed the bird over to her. Without speaking a young boy appeared from nowhere to collect the bird. Then she lifted her voice and addressed him- he could hardly hear what she was saying, sometimes he wished he had some measure of self control, all these could have been avoided- and he closed his eyes. Now he wished he had stabbed her or captured her as a slave. She obviously had powers that he could not fathom. It bothered him often why she chose him, was it because he was from Oyo? Or was it because he served theAlafin? But how could she tell? Puzzles, riddles- the priestess was still chanting incantations, he had faith; he believed it was sufficient, if not now then when the fighting was over, what will he do when they eventually meet? He wondered…for now he knelt before the priestess.