It was one of my trusted ìlàrí that woke me up the next morning. He was visibly agitated and panting with incoherent words coming from his mouth. I could note something was wrong. Could it be that some raiders have besieged our stop-over? Or a lion or leopard has entered the camp? I saw myself musing about what could be the cause of the elation. Sometimes, some cowards calling themselves warriors do raid fellow slave raiders to get their slave without going into the stress and risk of having to sack down a village. Poor incompetent warrior as they are, they sometimes get the support of villagers and even slaves themselves. I got to know they usually cajole the slaves as freedom fighter just to snatch them from their owners and resell them.
By the time I came out of my hut, my slaves have already gathered in front of my hut. I searched for tell tale of what could have happened, but I couldn’t find a clue. Not until Kúrúki, the dwarf that played the role of Alápótabírán in the mock battle of yesterday pointed to the source of their elation. Then I knew I was in trouble!
Hanging on one of the pillars by the eves of my hut was a double-axe which everybody knows is the insignia of Sango the god of thunder. Let me quickly tell you that among the warriors of Aláàfin then, we used this double axe to pass different messages and only the initiates get the message. To start with, there are four major types of the double-axe and an ordinary man may not be able to differentiate them. The difference lies in the shape of the two blades.
The first is when the blades are convex, the second is when the blades are concave. Each of this passes across different messages. The third is when the blades are flat. There is a message attached to this too. The fourth is when the blades are a mix of any of the two above. If it was Aláàfin the emperor that sent the double-axe, it has a different meaning entirely.
The one I saw that day was a flat blades double-axe. The blades were flat at both ends. I knew exactly what it means, and it means I have been challenged to a death duel by a man of my equal status. Convex blade would mean the person is my senior in the army and concave blade would mean he is my junior. But the presence of double-axe in front of any warrior’s house signifies mortal combat.
If it were Aláàfin that sent it, it could either mean war or peace depending on the concave or convex blades. A concave blade caves inward, meaning the blade cannot cut the neck of a man whose head is put on an upturned mortar. It then connotes that Aláàfin has forgiven the person. However if it is convex, it means war or that the person should be killed.
I took the double-axe with a red clothe. It means I’ve accepted the challenge and that by nightfall, it is either I will be no more or the challenger who is my equal will be no more.
I felt I needed to start preparing for the fight immediately. I called on my lieutenant who has now become my friend to prepare my charms. He gave me some incisions on my head, arms and legs. It was during this time that the lady I slept with overnight came out of the hut and the other slaves quickly briefed her of what has happened. She started wailing. I could not understand. Few hours ago I had forced myself into her and by her cry I could tell she enjoyed none of it. Now that she heard I have been challenged to a mortal combat, you would expect her to be happy that her tormentor is going to be killed. But this young pretty and naive damsel would rather cry for me. Could this be love? I asked myself. I have never experienced what they call love before. I am a warrior, I take whatever I fancy and destroy it if I could not take it. No emotional attachment. If my superior asked me to cut her head now I will do it without any feeling of guilt.
At noon, people, slaves, warriors and others in the camp had gathered to watch the wrestling contest between me and the other person whom I got to know was Adágunjà. He was known to be a terrible character in the legion of army that went to the raid. But I learnt he was a good soldier at war. Here brutality is what gives you fame. You must be a brute to dine among the warriors.
He came out to the wrestling square that has been prepared for the event. Since he was the one challenging me to a duel, rule has it that he must state the reason for the offense.
My offense was that among my harem of slaves I caught there was a girl he had caught but later escaped and now heard she is with me. My mind went to the girl I took in last night. I waited for him to finish before I responded. I told everyone present that by the circumstances surrounding the capture of the girl in question, Adágunjà was lying. I told the audience that I was not afraid of the challenge, but the lady in question was caught very early in the morning of our first raid still sleeping. There was just no way Adagunja could have caught her previously.
Explanations over, the mortal wrestling started in earnest. Whoever loses dies and whoever wins become the next Akọgun. Besides, all the slaves that belong of the dead opponent will now belong to the winner.
At first I was afraid. All the odds were against me. Adágunjà was not my equal in terms of strength and agility. Give it to him, he has it. He was bold and coverts a lot. Covertiousness is another virtue of warriors. When you see something undeserved by the owner you take it. So I quite understand his mind and intent.
I have to be extremely careful if I must win this game. He hooped around and easily lose himself from my grip.
After what look like eternity, opportunity presented itself, but not to me, my contender carried me up suddenly and wanted to break my spinal cord. I momentarily froze in horror of what was coming. Is this how I will die?
In a split second I must figure out how to escape this imminent death. Surprisingly, Adágunjà did not bring me down immediately. He seemed to be looking for where the slave in question was so he can kill me while she looked on. He was disappointed when he could not see her.
Fortunately, this gave me the little time I needed to plan and strike. I bit one of the fingers he used to hold me up like a log of tree. He cried in agony. Immediately I tumbled down from his grip and escape.
Several times, he had me. He had the opportunity to strike the last blow, but the absence of the lady seems to get to him. His lieutenant must have gone to check where the lady was.
At the end of the day, Olódùmarè gave me a small opportunity which I utilized to the maximum. His attention was divided in a split second and I was on top of him. I first of all blinded him with sands then crush him. He will no longer see the slave girl before he dies. He laid there on the ground breathing heavily.
Then I saw what distracted his attention. It was indeed the slave girl I slept with overnight. She was coming with such grace and beauty. She had been found in my hut alone and brought to the arena to witness the end of her owner. But his people could not believe how the event turned out to be.
I brought out my club and broke his arms and legs. He laid in his own pool of blood. He wanted to plea for his life but Balogun Onikoyi said I should finish him the way I like. No true born warrior dies because of distraction cause by a woman, irrespective of how beautiful.
Then I did something to humiliate him even more in the throes of death. I brought out my sword and told the girl to piss on his head or I behead her. She was so afraid jets of urine rushed down from her to the face of Adágunjà lying in the pool of his own blood. I know with this act, I have crossed many of his friends, but what do I care. I was basking in the glory of defeating my enemy. He would have done more than that if I were in his position.
Onikoyi himself stood up and clubbed Adágunjà to death. That is the only way to help him in such humiliated state. Onikoyi then raised my hand up as the new Akọgun. Roar of joy from my camp greeted hisses from Adágunjà camp. My slaves came to carry me up. We headed back to my hut, leaving my enemies behind in flaming rage and hatred. I care less. I will have the girl Adágunjà died for tonight again. Such is the life of a warrior.
However the ìjàkadì of that day would become stuff of legend.
The story continues….