My heart was almost coming out of my mouth when I entered the fort of Ààrẹ. It was a place of dread even for warriors like me. Spiked human heads were mounted on rooftop of the mud fence which covered about 30 houses that formed the fort of Aare. Some had rotten completely and some were in different stages of rot. Human bones littered every where, both the front yard and the backyard.
How can a human being live in this environment I wondered. The stench of dead bodies could suffocate anyone. In deed, this is house of horror. One thing that I also noticed was that you cannot actually pinpoint the house Ààrẹ occupies among the 30 thatched huts.
I met Ààrẹ at the backyard of one of the big huts performing some rites by a small ojúbọ Òjògò, one of many ojúbọ in the compound. Ajíbòògùnsọ̀rọ̀ was the name of our Ààrẹ of the time. He has fetish for almost all the male gods in the land: Sango, Ògún, Sànpọ̀nná and even Ọ̀sanyìn ẹlẹ́sẹ̀kan. From the red and black clothes tied around the fetish, I knew my dwarf had been killed to appease Ògún the god of iron and justice.
Ààrẹ was a very huge man and his intimidating figure matched the aura of mystery around him. Ojogo as a deity has been the òrìṣà of his ancestors from time immemorial. The deity is revered and wrapped in mystery, ferocious and powerful. It has helped him to conquer many wars.
Rumour has it that whenever Ààrẹ was called to go and fight a tribe by Aláàfin, he has a way of charging Ojogo to see to it that he comes back victorious as being conquered in battle means he will never return to the land to continue venerating Ojogo since Ojogo can only be appeased by true blood of the lineage of Ajiboogunsoro. A conquered Ààrẹ is expected to commit suicide or never return to the land. So the deity fortifies him immensely and ensures his victory at the battle.
However, since a son of Ààrẹ can perform this in the absence of his father, Ààrẹ, fearing Ojogo will one day refuse to ensure his safe return from battle as there is now a substitute to venerate the òrìṣà Ojogo, ensured no son of his lived to see his seventh year. He kills them all and planned to have a surviving son at his old age.
The freshly cut head of Kuruki my servant was on an upturned mortar in front of Ojogo the dreadful deity, waiting to be spiked. Aare saw me and burst out laughing hysterically. What could be the matter, I asked myself again, but my mind was too dazed to come up with an answer.
I waited for some minutes for Ààrẹ to finish what he was doing during which I watched him used his mouth to severe the head of a cock and pigeon and pour the fresh blood on the ojúbọ and the top of his own head.
The men of Ààrẹ gave me drink at this time but I refuse to drink. My mind was raising from one possible cause for my being summoned to another. Eventually, I was called in and after I had made obeisance to Ààrẹ, I went inside the hut.
Ààrẹ told me news of the beautiful slave I kept for myself had reached him and why I did that horrible thing on my opponent after I won the wrestling which confer the title of Akọgun Onikoyi on me.
I told him how the slave in question was captured by me and how I have the right to her body according to law of sharing the booty of war. He nodded in agreement and said he has nothing against me for having intercourse with the lady but that I didn’t wait till we get back to Oyo before doing that. He said he has sent for the lady and that they will soon bring her in. He said he has decided to sacrifice the lady too because he wouldn’t want Aláàfin to have interest in a lady I had already bedded, God forbid!
I was taken aback. I felt I have endured enough already. I have lost Kúrúki my faithful dwarf slave. Now I’m about to loose someone who strangely occupy my thought ever since I set eyes on her. I began to think of how to avert the horrible fate of Kúrúki befalling such innocent slave girl. I had already started thinking of how she would end up being my share of the slaves we brought. If Alaafin gets to know I had already bedded her, there is chance the king will give her to me as slave wife.
I was aware the Ààrẹ was studying my mood at the mention of the girl and his intention to sacrifices her. It was obvious he was throwing a bait at me. Will I be warrior enough to see my beloved beautiful slave hacked down in the most savage way or I will yield and plead for her life to be spared? At what expense is such a costly favour?
I was still lost in thought when they brought the slave girl naked and by the bruises on her body I can tell she had been beaten up recently. She was made to kneel down in front Ojogo and I could bet she must have recognized the head of Kúrúki. She looked at my direction and hot tears rolled down her cheeks. I looked away for I don’t want to betray my emotions. Once Ààrẹ noticed I have feelings for her, he will offer me a deal I know I won’t be able to reject.
They started preparing her for sacrifice and formed a ring around her. A ribbon of black and red clothe was tied round to cover her eyes completely. Her long, gracious neck eagerly awaiting the razor sharp blade of Aare’s sword to land on it. I imagined how jet of hot blood will gush out of her dying body and splatter the ground and the body of the executioner. The household of Ààrẹ will shout for joy that the sword made a clean cut once and the body of this beautiful damsel will be left to writhe on the ground in the pool of her own blood.
What can I do so stop this savagery? Why is Aare doing all these to taunt me. Is he measuring to what extent I can endure all these things? To what end, if this is true? Will I be given a precariously task if I beg for the life of this slave to be spared? How long will the innocents suffered in the battle of ego between powerful men?
Her hands had been securely tied to her back and mouth gagged. Strangely, the àdí or palm kernel oil poured and rubbed on her naked body gave a picture I couldn’t resist to behold. She was helpless now but that was strangely sexy to me. She had stopped crying as her body was being dragged over Èṣù òde so that she can be accused of offending Èṣù.
I prayed silently for some event to happen to halt the death of the young lady. Perhaps, Aláàfin’s emissary should just come in at the nick of time and stop this savagery with the staff of Aláàfin. He alone can stop this!
From the corner of my eyes I could see Ààrẹ watching me with keen interest. I know once a sword has been drawn from its sheet by Ààrẹ, the game is over. No plea can make him stop the killing. I went on my knees to beg as Aare rose to take his sword. I wept bitterly and begged for the life of the ebony beauty. She was just too beautiful and innocent to be wasted.
Ààrẹ ọna kakanfo smiled hysterically. “I thought you are the Akọgun? So you are this soft? You would cry over the death of a mere worthless slave?” He returned the sword to its place beside him and sat down again. And from then on, I knew I’m now a play thing for Ààrẹ; a ready hand to be used for his dirty jobs. That was why I wept, not because of the slave girl.
The story continue…….