Fiction

Voice of Reason: A Bevan Bemgba Nyakuma Short Story

The predawn darkness disappeared with the angry crow of the village cocks. Each cock with its distinct call shook its master out of sleep. The men of Ombu village had returned in the night, tired but beaming with the confidence of well-fed men, showing off the mosaic of colors extolled on their bodies and faces. The charms, totems and black cowry beads on their necks added to the spectacle of war preparations.

*

“Aya-tu-tu Ka u no?! Me Aya-tu-tu Ka u no?

Kase! Kase! Kase! Ooo!!”

The men yelled their response lifting high their machetes, leather shield and spears alike.

            “Yes, great tribes men, the time has come…” echoed the Kuru-Itya. “…it is time to lay claim to what the gods have promised us since the days of our ancestors. The fertile lands they till belong to us. Let us arise and conquer the Ugengy… (He paused)…

 “Me Aya-tu-tu Ka u no?!”

            The war chief cried out once again. His men replied,

Kase, Kase! Ooo!”

            “Great Tiv men, the gods have decreed that Ugengy must not be spared. Bring back their women and children, their livestock and produce. We shall offer them to the gods in sacrifice…”

            The war chief and his army began their march to the riverbank, led by the Toragbande –drum commander (usually a man of outstanding military ability, charisma and magical power)- singing the war songs of old. KpamOr was greatly respected, and thus he led the army. But strangely KpamOr did not join in the singing. All he could hear was his wife and mother’s pleas. One after the other, mother and spouse took turns, tormenting his piece of mind.

            By now the war party had reached the riverbank, where several boats were stationed awaiting their arrival. The Kuru-Itya and KpamOr, as it was customary, led the ritual of blessing and consecrating each vessel which would lead them to the Ugengy.

            Something strange then happened, whilst stepping on the last boat, KpamOr heard a voice call his name. “A lion does not turn around when a small dog barks” He said to himself and refused to heed to the callers’ voice.

            “KpamOr, son of Jijingir, spirit of Ombu Terenge. Hear me. Listen to your mothers’ cry, do not forsake your wife’s tears…Listen to the warnings of the gods”

            “Who are you? What do you want from me?” He retorted.

            “My child, I am the voice of reason sent to you by the gods. They forbid you to go to Ugengy…”

            By this time the Kuru-Itya and the troops on the riverbank stood still dumbfounded, staring at KpamOr cursing and splitting the thin air with his sword. They knew the boat initiation never lasted that long. “So what was he doing?” They asked one another.

            “I order you KpamOr, son of Jijingir to return home at once and stand guard over your family. Do not go to Ugengy… Do not go…”

            The Toragbande turned around and left. But the voice added,

“My child remember- A stream cannot rise above its source…

*

KpamOr could hardly recognize his village. Even the air tasted different and redolent with the stench of blood, wails and death. Even a blind, deaf and dumb man could decipher the state Ombu now lay in. The Toragbande ran over to his wife’s hut but he only found echoes and cries of lament. His mother’s hut bore a different tune; all he could find was her favorite piece of Anghe cloth torn to shreds and riddled with the bullets of a wizard’s gun.

            KpamOr fell on his knees and wept amid the rubble that was once his humble abode. Tears trickled down his cheeks; it was the first time the Toragbande had shed tears in his entire lifetime. As he eyes cried the masculine tears, so did his lips lament prodding, “Oh! Why? Why have the gods forsaken me…?”

The strange voice at river appeared again,

            “KpamOr, son of Jijingir, Spirit of Ombu Terenge. The gods have not forsaken you. It is you who has forsaken the words of the gods. You were warned…”

            “Show your face. That I may take my revenge on you…” KpamOr retorted drawing his sword. But the voice replied,

            “Wind is never caught by hand. Watch your tongue my child, it is this anger and stubbornness that has brought this wrath upon you. The Kuru-Itya in his greed misled all of you. But you, son of Jijingir, the gods chose to spare but you chose the way of man. War only brings death and sorrow. You could have saved your family but the quest for fame and praise among men blinded you. This is the price for disobedience KpamOr. May you live the days of your life…”

            “Oh! Oh!” KpamOr moaned. “Voice of Reason help me…! help me…!” KpamOr cried. But the voice replied,

“It is beyond me. I am only a voice to your reason. I can only give you this one advice- Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped. The fall of a man is not the end of his life, my child”

  KpamOr got to his feet, shook off the dirt and sorrows muttering,

            “A wise man who knows proverbs reconciles difficulties. May the gods be praised…”

Please leave a comment...

*