17 October 2010

Alika's Dilemma by Fredrick C. Nwonwu

Back in the days when boys still waited under the big Udarra tree for the ripe fruit to fall, when it was still taboo for thrown stones to hit its sacred branches, when the falling fruit was by default the first pickers own, when the rush to the stream was a bigger taboo than stealing yam from an elder’s barn, when the first claimed all but was expected to share by nature of the Earth’s law, when pre-marital sex was unknown and a woman’s pride was the stained loin cloth seen after the bridal night.

Those days of predictable happenings, when men come home to their families and divorces were so rare they were stuff of legends - used to frighten the unruly daughter back in line. These were days of plenty, men planted their bellies worth and the extra for trade by age-old barter.

It was in these days of fable beginnings that Alika The Giant walked the Seven Hills, sending shivery fear down his enemies’ spine. The elders recall that no one dared fight Alika’s clan, Umumba, within the Seven Hills. The warriors of the other clans heard his fame's roar from afar and slunk away like women.

This is the story of Alika’s pursuit of the vivacious Amoge as told by his bard friend Obele Okwu the Great. Not forgetting that he was an apprentice at this time, though he always swears, by the Thunder God’s bellow, that he was better than his teacher, and we can only measure his truthfulness by the pinch of the river people’s salt lick.

His tale came to me through a long line of oral historians who travelled the wild-lands collecting stories of this like for the horsemen who ploughed the northern fringes of a fading dynasty in the days of waning light. I will disappear from this tale (for the time that is.) and allow you judge his authenticity for yourself.

-D’Lameone 5520 A.M. (After the Mirror’s Fall)

Dusk had just passed into deeper darkness and the night market of Alor was in full swing. From the river harbour market, crowded with slave and livestock pens, to the cluster of the huts of homesteads, and on to where the trade routes met the river road. The smoky light of hundreds of oil lanterns hung on bamboo poles beat back the shadows to lend an almost festive ambiance to the scene. There are several raffia sheds near the trade route, where the light by some kind of trickery appears not as bright as elsewhere. Here too, the business is of flesh, but of a more sensual leaning.

It is from this latter place that the captivating sound of flute music wafted out of, drawing even the attention of ears not attuned to music. As it would appear, good music is designable by even the musical novice. The music was obviously being played by an expert and the claps and sudden shouts that accompanied it attested to the fact that the audience were being titillated. Suddenly, the notes appeared to waver then picked up again, this time accompanied by a powerful male voice.

The song played on for several minutes and other voices joined in the chorus. After awhile the voices quieted, giving way to the flute which trilled on for a longer while, rising and falling with an expertise that almost seemed to have a show-offish undertone; like the musician wanted to prove to everyone that he was really good, and his music was not a fluke. The music reached its crescendo and died, almost reluctantly. There was a lull then clapping and shouts broke out.

In the midst of all the noise was Obele Okwu, tall and lanky with the face of a mischievous cherub. An ornamented flute was clasped in his hand as he bowed low first to one direction then to the other, smiling all the time as if he fed off the praise of his captivated audience.

He happily grabbed the large gourd of palm wine that the proprietor of this not too respectable establishment offered him as a token of appreciation, for Obele Okwu had just managed to draw in more customers than he had seen outside of the festival season. Obele did not bother with the cup provided, as he lifted the gourd to his lips and drank thirstily.

“Whew!” he exclaimed, after putting down the gourd, wiping off the froth from his lips with his long fingered hand, “Obele has arrived, If there is one thing that my grandsire’s people are good with, then it is the tapping of the raffia palm. This is good wine, Okadi, My Mother’s kin, you know wine.” With that he saluted the tavern owner and drank again.

“Not a thing, son of my sister, not a thing. Since you are of our blood, I knew you would know good wine so I offered you one. Most of your brothers from the Seven Hills would not tell an average one from a super wine” said Okadi.

At the mention of the Seven Hills the entire hut shushed, and everyone turned to look at Obele Okwu. Wonder shone in their eyes as most speculated what a man of the Hills was doing in the Low Lands at this time of the year.

“You are of the Seven Hills?” the man that had lent his voice to Obele’s song asked.

“Yes.” Obele said non-committally, taking a deep swig from his gourd.

“And what brings a hill man to the Low Lands in the wet season?”

Obele, did not answer at first, just sat there and nursed his drink while the crowd, feeling a tale in the air, shifted as close as they could without upsetting Okadi the tavern owner who is known for his deadly temper.

Obele lifted the gourd to his lips, drained it and slammed it on the bamboo and raffia table. He then declared that if the Lowlanders wanted to hear his tale they should refill his gourd, since, according to him, the mouth loosens up more easily when it was wetted constantly during a tale.

This brought general laughter to the gathered Lowlanders. Though some murmured that this Hill man drank like a fish and may drink hole into their pockets, but there was a general agreement that his tale would be worth the expense.

So more drink was bought and Obele made his way to a more central position and after delaying for as long as he could get away with, cleared his throat and began his tale.

“My name is Obele Okwu which, as you will find, is a misnomer, for I earn my living as a bard, and you know we bards sing as loud as the Iroko gong – I know some of you have never seen the Iroko gong, it is a large gong cut into the base of the giant Iroko but that is not the tale for today.

I am of the Seven Hills, though I am kin with the people of the Dry Marshes, my mother’s mother, as Okadi over there will attest to, having hailed from the foothills. I am presently on a fool’s errand for my famous friend Alika of the Seven Hills. Perhaps you have heard tell of his exploits in the Two Markets War and the Taming of the Plain Lion?

I was sent to these foothills because of my bloodlines, for it is hoped that I can convince some of my grand sire’s kin to follow me back through the dreaded path to the hills, bringing the fabled northern ox with us. The ox is for Amaoge of the Shrines who Alika hopes to make his partner at the Festival of Bonding.

I will like to tell you a bit about Alika my friend whose tale this is. I would have loved to tell you of his exploits in the Two Markets War – assuming you have not heard hint of it, but we both know that will call for more palm wine than I can consume at this sitting.”

There was general laughter in the tavern as Obele lifted the fresh gourd and tapped the bottom to indicate its emptiness.

Another full gourd was brought over and Obele grasped it by the slender neck and took a swig, belching contentedly as he shifted his weight on his stool before resuming his tale where he left off.

“Alika, though undeniably the strongest man in the Hills, walked away from more battles than any other warrior in the Seven Hills, No, not for cowardice, but for lack of a worthy opponent and the unwillingness to inflict harm on a fellow human. The songs of the Hills have it that the most well kept secret of the Two Market War was the fact that Alika was actually coaxed to appear on the battle field by his mother with the solemn promise that he would not have to strike a blow if he did. Alika stood on the front lines of Umumba like Ala’s – the Earth God’s – wrath, trying his very best to look as mean as possible. Now, now, I am not trying to put wings to that story and I can only confirm that Alika shared two burly rams with me after that hardly fought battle, presents from the elders he said.

Yes, I assure you, even the elders agree, that had the Ezilo clan summoned enough will to strike out, they would have succeeded in hauling home the lone human head that would have given them the battle. But, the fear of the gentle giant Alika robbed them of a ready victory; they out-numbered Umumba three to one and owned the most feared war Ikenga (war totem) in the whole of the Seven Hills. And this is not summons to arms for you faint hearted Plains and River men, remember that Ezilo is of the Hills and we fight all outsiders together.

But I digress; I was talking about my friend not the war.

Alika is tall. This everyone agrees, the tallest man the Seven Hills have ever produced. You know we of the Hills are born tall, most crossing the six adult feet length. Alika stands above seven and has the mass of two Hill men without the fat of the Low Landers. He could easily lift ten times his body weight and till the fields at par with five strong workers combined.

Everyone also agreed that Alika is an asset to the seven hills and his height made him recognisable even in the crowded market. Women looked at him with doe eyes and men envied him, his mother could not have prayed for a better son.

All appeared well, but Alika nursed a secret pain.”

Obele paused, as if to gauge the extent of the crowd’s enthralment. He shook his head surreptitiously when he noticed that most of his audience had limp lower jaws, a good enough indication that they were paying him heed, so he smiled to himself and continued.

“You see, marriage in the hills is unlike those of the Low Lands and elsewhere. There, parents take pride in the fact that their children make the choice of a life partner on their own. We hill dwellers bond at late adolescence or early adulthood and most get married soon after that. Here lies Alika’s dilemma. Fear, fear for the weaker sex. Though strong and built like the ox of the northern plains, Alika gets queasy around women and finds it tasking to go beyond the first few words of pleasantries before his habitual stammer takes over. No, Alika does not naturally stutter, his affliction only occurs when a maiden’s smile lights up her beautiful eyes, and Alika is yet to meet a woman who does not smile at him.

Now, the time of bonding drew near and Alika’s soft heart had been seized by the medicine man’s beautiful daughter, Amoge. Who stands taller than her brothers and is widely known to shun womanly tasks, choosing instead the hazards of her uncle’s hunting lodge in the Twin Forests. No one knew what caught Alika’s attention but, I, Obele his bosom friend and confidant in many an adventure. I swear by the Thunder God’s Bellow that it had more to do with the fact that she is the only woman in the Seven Hills who can look Alika in the eye and hold his gaze, than the fact that her beauty makes even the old men dream of youth long spent.

Our Hill bonding ritual is done at the lesser market square away from the cradle of the elders, effectively hidden from the prying eyes of parents who are known to harbour prejudices, wanting to lift their families standing in the Hills with choice choosing. Before the day of bonding proper, a suitor is expected to secretly give his intended a gift known only to her. If she fancies him, she will in turn give him hers on the day of bonding.

Now, it is common occurrence for suitors to be led on and then dumped for another at the bonding, in the hills a woman’s pride is measured by how many suitor gifts adorn her mother’s hut before the bonding. The youths avoid this situation by seeking and getting assurances from an intended beforehand. This is done at the Iyi Ama stream where a promise given is broken only at ones peril.

It was exactly two moons short of the yam harvest, which leaves would be suitors another rodents gestation — about a full moon circle — to either get the promise at Iyi Ama or hope for any maiden left over from the choosing, not a suitable choice for the most feared warrior in the seven hills.

The day this particular adventure began was not remarkable in any way and I was busy cleaning new flute woods my master sourced from an antelope hunter in the Twin Forest.

Having eaten a stingy meal of roast locust and ncha – that is tapioca meal to you Low Landers, provided by my tutor’s wife whom he got at a good bargain from the river dwellers at his music’s prime. I was still feeling hungry and was about giving in to temptation and raid my other mother’s loft when a shadow fell across the stacked wood pieces in front of me. Startled, I almost jumped out of my skin but for that irritatingly familiar voice that reached my well-tuned ears.

‘Obele Okwu.’ Alika called out in that hoarse voice of his that always jangles my nerves, ‘are you scared of a harmless shadow?’

I looked at him for a bit, thinking up the best retort to counter his wit. I will also have you know that Alika is very quick with his tongue – at least when it is not a maiden he is addressing – and I always have to fight for words to keep him at bay.

‘And who would not jump back from a shadow without substance?’ I finally retorted, daring him with my eyes to contradict my postulation.

He looked at me for a long while, like when he is preparing for our speech battles that always seem to lift his spirits while leaving me drained. When I thought he was about to throw a hard counter at me he shifted his weight and sat down heavily on a disused mortar.

I noticed that Alika’s countenance fell with his decent and my concern leaped out with its customary swiftness.‘Brave warrior,’ I hailed, squatting on my heels beside him, ‘what draws twilights’ shadow across you brave heart?’

He looked down at me, a weary smile playing across his full lips as he swatted several of those tiny blood sucking insects that plague the Hills on his broad shoulders.

‘Obele,’ he called, looking me straight in the eyes.

‘I am here Alika, speak your ill.’

‘Obele, you know the day of bonding is upon us?’

‘Yes, I am aware.’ I replied, dreading he had gotten wind of my assent with his younger sister. An awkward situation I had hoped will only come to light after the bonding when he was forbidden by law to hurt an in-law. ‘What about it?’

He looked at me strangely for a moment, shook his head and asked, ‘do you not see any problem?’

‘No.’ I replied, with all the sincerity I could muster, my heart was then falling out of my mouth.

‘Obele Okwu.’ He said sadly. ‘I thought you knew me well and were a good friend.’ My heart was now held in my hands and threatening to slip.

‘But… but I am.’ I insisted. Flexing my leg muscles as adrenaline raced through my blood.

‘How then, Obele the bard, can you be my friend and not know that it is a few twilights to the night of bonding, and I, Alika of the songs has no promise and no mate?’ he bellowed, standing to his full height arms akimbo. “How then?” he added for emphasis, his voice a whisper, belying his earlier loudness.

‘OH!’ I exclaimed, my heart rushing back with a release that is as painful as the initial rush of blood.

‘Oh?’ he asked, stunned ‘oh? Is that all you have to contribute to this dilemma of mine?’

‘But Alika you are the last man I will expect to have that dilemma. All the girls want to be with you, even the married ones look at you with longing and I am sure it takes only the taboo to keep them from your hut.’

‘And?’ he asked, scowling down at me.

‘And you can have anyone you want.’

‘It’s not that easy,’

‘Not easy?’ I asked. It was my turn to be stunned ‘what do you mean not easy?’

‘Just that, or have you forgotten my difficulty?’ he asked sternly, glaring at me manically.

‘Oh, the difficulty,’

‘Yes, that difficulty.’

He glanced around; to ascertain if we were still alone. Spying my tutor’s foreign wife at the far end of the compound, he pulled me away towards the ill-used hunters’ path.

We walked in silence for a long while. Well, long enough for my acute ears to lose the sounds of the village until we finally arrived at the forked cross roads at the forest of Abam the smaller. Here, Alika crossed over to the wayfarer’s seat under the large wild looking Ugba tree that is rumoured to harbour the traveller’s goddess Ijedimma. Being a bard I considered myself more of a journey-man than a warrior I felt slightly slighted that Alika, a warrior, should be this free with Ijedimma’s domicile, I rushed to claim first place, managing to beat him by a hair’s breath.

He looked at me with forced tolerance and proceeded to drop the customary kola nut at the sacred tree’s foot. Not being of a priestly line like him I assumed a pious demeanour and nodded my head at the appropriate places and accepted the proffered kola nut. You know what kola does to a bards learning voice but then a little piece hardly makes a difference and it was shared by a friendly if not patron goddess. We did not sit there long before Alika told me that he was taking the left fork of the road, which lead to the Twin Forest.

Intrigued I asked him why he was going there. He looked at me with those big innocent eyes of his as if I had gone mad.

‘It is not just me who is going there, you are coming too.’

‘What! And when was that discussed?’

‘Just now, I am going to court Amaoge and I need you for moral support.’ He said casually.

‘Court Amaoge? And have you not being doing that a whole lot recently?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Don’t play dumber Alika, everyone knows you like her,’ I replied, clinching my fist to stop from laughing at the horrified expression on his face. ‘And those late night vigils outside her homestead, the water fetching and barn making for her father are not hidden. What! Everyone is doing something for some girl’s family these days, even I spent the whole of last market day tiling your mother’s vegetable patch for Chi….eeh…’ I cut myself off hoping he had not caught the significance of my blunder, but one look at his smiling face and I knew that the harm had already been done.

‘Relax Obele, I know about you and my sister. I am not blind too; you two have always liked each other. We all knew it will lead to this.’

‘You knew?’ I said as my tongue found its rhythm. ‘And all these time I was scared you will kill me if you knew.’

‘Kill you? Far from it,’ he said, laughing hard. ‘That is why I brought you here; you are to repay the favour by helping me with Amaoge.’

My relief knew no bounds as my greatest fear faded away like a whiff of summer smoke, blown by the strong winds. I turned away from him, hiding the relief that flooded my face.

‘What do you want to do?’ I asked.

‘We go to her Uncle’s hunting lodge. I have a deer trap near the stream, I noticed fresh tracks there yesterday and I am sure it would have snared something now.’ He paused looked at me to ascertain if I am following him, I nodded my head once, yes. He continued. ‘If that trap fails we check my fish trap in the stream. Hopefully we go with one or both. Now I want to give her the gifts before her uncle know we are there, so I need you to distract him long enough for me to deposit it where she will find it later. Are you following? Now the tricky part is not giving her the gifts but holding my act long enough to ask her.’

‘Ask her what?’

‘Hey! Were you following anything I said? To ask her to be mine.’

‘Ok, I get it. But why don’t we just wait for her to come back home and give her these gifts at home?’

‘No, it is better done in the forest, that way if she rejects me it will be known to only three people, me, you and her. Same goes for if I make a mess of it.’ He concluded smugly.

I wanted to argue further, but I saw the sense in his reasoning and held my peace, though I was dying to ask him why he decided on non-conventional gifts when everyone else just got ornaments.

We took the left fork like he wanted and got to the stream at about midday. Now you know how dense the forest in the seven hills can be, especially at the peak of the rain season when the elephant grass is at its most luxuriant. Well, the trap was hidden by such a growth and my untrained bush eyes did not even realise we are in its vicinity until Alika exclaimed in unabashed horror.

Following his furious gaze I looked again and saw what was aggravating him, hidden by the grasses, lay the despoiled carcass of a rather large deer, its bowels had been ripped open and most of the meat chewed to the bone. What was left looked more like a bloodied mass of bone and cartilage attached to a strangely whole head, which still hung from the taut vine rope of Alika’s trap.

As we looked on, a young lioness strolled out of the grass with her brood, casually licking fresh blood from her jowls and growling contently as she strolled casually towards us. Some of her brood, wanting second helpings, trotted back to the carcass and tore off bits and pieces which they then fought over.

I know you will be dying to ask what we did in the face of that blatant theft. Well, being of the Hills, we are kin to the Lions of the Hills, for aside from being the totems of the Seven Hills, they are also bond to us by the blood pact our ancestors had with theirs, as such we expected them to protect our kill not use them for lunch. So it took all of my talking skill to talk Alika out of taking his own back from the lioness there and then, an action that would have brought on us the wrath of the Guardians of the caves that protect the Hill and its lions.

So, reluctantly and with great disappointment we left the trap and its ill-fated catch and made way to the stream where we hoped for better luck, leaving the young lioness rolling on the forest floor with her cubs. Apparently she needed the meal more than us, but that will not stop us taking the matter to the Guardians when all is said and done.

The stream – it is not known by any name not having the luck of being affiliated to any god or spirit – originates from the smallest of the Seven Hills and somehow manages to boycott the slopes that would have led to its capture by any of the other streams that flow into the great Nmamu River. It ends in the twin forests where it collects into a little lake called Nma (beautiful) for its collection of rainbow butterflies and bright plumaged birds. At the centre it is said to drain into an underground river and anyone caught in its swirl is lost forever, but the shallows are perfectly safe and the fishes large. It was there, at the shallows, that Alika had set his trap and as we approached, the splashing of a captured prey welcomed our wary eyes just as the water cooled our patched throats and insect gnawed upper bodies.

We did not immediately go to the trap but sat by the shore eating a meagre ration of dried nchi meat and trading banters on our extensive adventures, believing our catch is waiting for us and no harm will come to it, how wrong we were.

It was I who went to pull the trap from the lake. Not having much trap fishing experience, I wadded into the water that came to my knee. I did not think anything was amiss when I saw the black polished diamond glitter of the prey’s skin. Grabbing the tapered neck of the fish trap, I lifted it onto my back without looking and headed back to shore. I noted the heaviness of my burden and smiled, knowing that it meant a big catch.

I must have gotten very close to shore when Alika’s scream stopped me in my tracks. My heart wobbled and my knees knocked together as I looked up at and around, seeking the source of his distress. He was still where I left him only he was dancing around horrified, pointing toward me, gesturing and shouting incoherently.

I turned around, alarmed, but the water behind me was as still and the forest beyond held no trouble. Turning back to him I was about to tell him off for playing a loose joke on me when something slippery and wet brushed my shoulder. No, mind you, I was not spooked by it, not just then; I was more worried of the smell of the fish that may cling to my new shawl. So I lifted the trap off my back and manoeuvred it to my front with the intent of resting it on the soft shore sand so that I can wash the fishy water off my shoulder before it sticks and starts smelling. You can imagine my horror at the sight of the biggest water snake I had ever seen, staring at me with vexed eyes.”

There was a collective gasp from the audience at this point. Apparently everyone knew the potency of the water snake’s bite. Some even murmured that no one comes that close to a water snake and lives to tell the tale. If he heard these murmurs, Obele did not indicate, he only signalled to Okadi with his upheld flute that his gourd was empty before going right back to his tale.

“I do not know how I managed to throw the trap away before its poised head struck or how I managed the strength to throw it as far as I did, a feat, I tell you, even Alika envied, but I remembered vividly that it was fully out of the now broken trap and coming at me with blinding speed. I waited only long enough to note that I had underestimated its size initially and then my heels were touching my head. I caught up with and passed Alika, who was struggling to pull out our machetes from the solid grip of the clayey soil, without looking back, shouting at him that it is a venom thrower. He overtook me before I got to the bush path. We ran like mad for several stone throws. The venom thrower you see, is as aggressive as a woman in labour and will chase you for great distance if it feels you have hurt it greatly. We had by catching it in a trap, done more than hurt its bristly feelings. When we finally came to a heart shuddering halt and ascertained that it was no longer in pursuit, we picked a high branch to rest on, in case it was still bent on catching up with us.

I do not remember who it was or how the suggestion to use it in place of the fish as a gift for Amaoge came up, but we were both too scared and beat to go back to the lake just then. We were still resting on the branch when Amaoge and her uncle walked up to us from the direction we had come. It was my acute ears that heard rumour of their whispered conversation, I alerted Alika and we climbed down from our branch and stood by the path awaiting their coming.

Mazi Akani called out to us as they neared and we walked down to meet them.

Amaoge looked as stunning as ever and even the jungle tattoos on her person and the large basket she had on her head did not take anything away from her beauty. I almost envied Alika his choice.

She smiled at me and gave Alika an appraising gaze. As usual he averted his eyes and she smiled secretly at me. By thunder, I thought, she really likes him. If he can see her as clearly as I can we would not be thinking up all these schemes to win her love.

‘We caught us a large venom thrower.’ Mazi Akani, announced with pride, ‘it must have tired-out chasing after some prey and was resting when we came up to it, Amaoge here got it dead on the head with her bow from fifty paces out.’ The pride in his voice was evident even to a scowling Alika who shook his head warningly at me as I made to offer information on the dead snake.

I endured the secret humiliation of weighing the worth of venom thrower skin in the fashion market for the happy old man who looked on, pride dancing in his deep set eyes.

My congress with the old hunter gave Alika his time with Amaoge. Hell, they were walking behind me and Mazi Akani so I did not see anything or hear what was said. I only saw Amaoge saunter past us, a big smile on her face.

We did not follow them all the way to the hunting lodge but said our goodbyes at the next turning. Twilight was turning to darkness and I was itching to get home to my flute and leafy yam porridge. But no, Alika had not had enough of adventure, not that day, not ever. He said he had promised Amaoge an elephant tusk and a plains ox for her bonding if she will take him, now he is going to the eastern foothills to trap an elephant while I head home, get my gear and go to my grandmother’s people for an ox.

I thought him mad; I raved and ranted, telling him that a woman who loved you will not make you go to such extremes.

He only smiled his eyes far away.

‘Obele,’ he said, ‘she accepted me before I made the promises, and I want her to have the greatest bonding gift ever seen in the seven hills. You are my friend and in-law, ok, ok, would be in-law, get the ox for me and you will have my gratitude for ever. There might even be an elephant tusk for Chiwendu. Think what that will mean.’

That got me, what! I never said I was not weak in the knees when the fair sex is concerned.

Well, I got home that day when the hyena’s laugh began in the valley and left with the first embers of that day’s sun.

As for Alika, I do not know, I left him at the cross roads arranging poles he had hacked in the forest, preparing for his long trek east where the wild elephants hold sway. So by now he is gone to the eastern foothills to trap an elephant while I go to my grandmother’s people for an ox. Yet knowing him and his hunting luck, he might be back in the Seven Hills already, waiting for me to show up.

I am yet to get a cattle man brave enough to take the route to the hills this rainy season, even with my promise of protecting them from our guardians, as I do not possess the skills to herd that fierce species. Time is passing and I cannot go back empty handed and my own bond waits.”

There was a deep silence when Obele stopped talking, even a silent fart would have been too loud in the ensuing silence. All eyes were on Obele, following his every move. Like a charmer who knew he has entranced a prey, Obele slowly pulled out his flute and lifted it to his lips. He blew a blast that seemed to convey all his frustrations, before finding a sorrowful tune. Still playing his drink induced tune, he stood up gingerly on his feet and danced a little jig even as he swayed from side to side, pushed by the alcohol in his system. Buoyed up by the drink, his dance became more dramatic and his flute changed tune, becoming more soul lifting as he moved from one end of the tavern to the other. Soon enough people, who had had the mind to ask Obele to continue his story, forgot their interest as the music swept every one up again.

The flute music drifted through the night air, reaching the river harbour where a Northlander, struggling with the worn shoes of his fierce looking horse, paused for a long while to savour the sound of the flute. Even though the tune sounded foreign to him, he still felt enough of the music to conclude that whoever was playing that tune was a masterful musician. He suddenly felt the need to hurry; something told him that he should go seek out the musician whose flute has so stirred his soul. The laugh of a lone hyena echoed in the distant marshes as he hurried towards the tavern, where the sound of a raunchy chorus flitted through the night air to spur him on. He knew he was going to meet fate, but what that fate had in store will be told in another tale...

That is the story of how Alika and Obele Okwu set out from the hills on what he (obele) termed a fool’s errand. My source told me that by the time he left the night market at Alor which, according to him and accented to by all his brother scribes, was a full week after the drink induced tale by Obele Okwu, he was still searching for that brave trader that will either go with him to his tribal lands or teach him on short notice how to drive the fiery bulls to the hills.

Since none of this group of oral scribes returned to the lowlands or the hills I have sought and gotten information of a traveller who has in his possession goat-hide scrolls said to contain scribbling of songs by Obele Okwu the great. I am positive that they contain details of his adventures.

I go to seek him tomorrow and will return only when I have them in my possession.

-D’lameone 5520 A.M. (After the Mirror’s Fall)

Alika's Dilemma was written by Fredrick C. Nwonwu and is an excerpt from a forthcoming book Tales from the Seven Hills.

Copyright © Fredrick C. Nwonwu 2010.

Fredrick. C. Nwonwu is a creative writer based in Lagos Nigeria; he experimented with poetry, scripts, short stories, report writing and other genres before deciding his mainstay is prose.His works have appeared in various mainstream writer's sites and the anthology A generation defining itself.

He is presently earning a living from his other love, article writing, while taking as much time as possible to add pages to his novel in progress Rivers of Blood and a collection of related short stories Tales from the Seven Hills.

Fred believes his writing speaks for him, since he is very shy and usually has very little to say when in the midst of strangers.


Myne Whitman said...

I love Fred's writings and look forward to reading a complete book.

Fredrick Chiagozie Nwonwu said...

Thanks Myne, A book is in the works, Looking for publishers at the moment. Keep your fingers crossed.

onlyonezee said...

I found this story interesting. Keep it up!

Fredrick Chiagozie Nwonwu said...

Thanks for the kind comments Onlyonezee. I Will try very hard to.

chinenye Adekanmbi said...

i absolutely loved reading ur piece.ur wit had me laughing. u've left me asking for more.pls make it sooner than later

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