As the evening gradually took her place in the scheme of things, farmers observed it was rather too late to continue their ambitions on the hillside. Thus, they began to journey back to their proud heritage—the countryside that they called home. As they walked, the bush paths felt their coming, and their wild hits of feet wrote frustration on the face of old Earth. Rickety legs would do no harm to such a hard Earth—she would laugh if such feet would keep treading all day. Gubado also had his share of a good day and was returning home --pride hung from his neck like an Olympic medal. Those who knew what pride could do also assumed that his high mindedness was because he was going to be given a piece of land that set him apart from his brother, Goudonas, the father of Nihu. This transfer of property would render Nihu’s father as one of the poorest in the family. As the farmers reached their various destinations, Nihu, a young hunter who was known for playing flute in his local district, was out that evening with bow and arrows. It all began well for him, for an opportunity came his way immediately. As he advanced into the forest, he ran into an antelope that was busy grazing near a bush path void of human activity. Nihu squinted his eyes and took aim, but his shot went wide and the arrow stuck into a tree. Meanwhile, the antelope rose, noticing the action that was against its poor soul, and faded safely into the nearby bush. As for Nihu, he did not go to recover the arrow that struck the tree. He drew another arrow from his quiver and went another way, still in search of an animal for the night. When all effort to get one failed, he retreated home to grab his dinner and put the day behind him. After Nihu had gone, a robber, who had seen the shot to the antelope, was lying in ambush, awaiting his prey of the evening. He got hold of Nihu’s arrow to use as a weapon if, eventually, he ran into anyone. Like any thief that would never want to be caught or seen, he took cover like a militia in the woods, knowing that his prey would be along shortly. When Gubado emerged from the evening’s shadows, the pride of a champion was still alive within him. One could see the high look standing far taller than the pair of legs that carried him. That pair of rickety legs could provoke laughter in a congregation of people with dark conscience. Laughter would reign gloriously on their faces because of what nature made out of him. Pride and fulfillment walked on the most precious streets of Gubado’s heart. Perhaps an orator had sold the new look to him. The glory within the noble farmer did not encourage him to take a careful look here and there. Maybe Gubado would have seen the robber when he came out briefly to see if a victim was on his way. As Gubado got close, the robber fell upon him. They had a fair struggle. Gubado fought back with the cutlass he hung around his neck, but his blow came late as the robber had already driven the arrow into Gubado’s chest. As he staggered, his cutlass fell to the ground and he began to battle very hard to overcome the cruel hand of death that gradually enveloped him. The robber got hold of the cutlass that was lying somewhere in the dirt and zapped off Gubado’s head. The deal was done. Gubado’s body rested peacefully on the bare chest of the Earth as his head rolled unto the edge of the bush path. Quietly, the thief collected all that was on the severed countryman. Rings, beads and all his belongings were placed in his pockets. A future of plenty emerged from just a few minutes of assault. The robber fled into the night, carefully looking to every side to make sure that no one saw him carry out such an evil act. A few days later, Gubado’s body was found. The massacre had tongues wagging in the countryside. The arrow that stood in his left chest was still there and the severed head invited flies and ravenous animals to have their share of the free meal. Before the bald vultures could eat what the robber had served them, the people began to cry for justice to take its due course. The news reached the King who sent his soldiers to get the body for proper examination. Gubado’s corpse was brought to the palace, Nihu’s arrow still sticking in his chest. A farmer, one who had seen Nihu shooting arrows in the forest, visited the palace to report the incident. With this confirmation, the King and his council of elders concluded that Nihu was the murderer. He must have done it so that his father, Goudonas would finally be in possession of the land that had set brother against brother.
CHAPTER FOUR Man in the Mask The night was cold. The few stars that sat on the doorstep of the sky could not light up the poor earth. As darkness ruled, fruit bats had a field day. They flied and fed all night. When it was midnight, Mr. Ajayi and Tolu had already surrendered to the subtle call of nature and was fast asleep. The farmer and his worker were snoring hard in a corner when the thief emerged from the fence. The man who was as dark as the midnight wore a mask he felt could hide his identity. Just as he had always done, he climbed down from the tree.
As soon as he touched the earth, he adjusted his huge frame as if he had just won a lottery and flung a glance about. Sensing that no eye was watching, he flashed a menacing smile at the farm, nodding quietly. It was time to steal. He placed his filthy hand on his torch as his sack hung loosely on his broad shoulder and began to move quietly to where the eggs were. But after five steps or more, he paused and looked carefully about. Fear seemed to have crept in and was taking its toll. Afraid that he could be caught off guard, he looked about more carefully again, and flashing the torch. As expected, he dropped the confusion on the doorstep of the past and moved on. The thief had barely gone a distance when he caught his foot on a log of wood and fell. The man yelled as if he had lost a vital part of his body and quickly jumped to his feet. Panting, he flashed his torch about and was happy that there was nothing to fear about. Not sensing danger, he adjusted his mask, for it was the only thing that begged for attention. He did not bother to dust his clothes, he sighed and moved on.
Unknown to the thief, his miserable fall had woken Mr. Ajayi and Tolu. They jumped to their feet and looked about. They saw someone moved into the corner where eggs were kept. Without wasting time, they grabbed their weapons with an iron grip and followed the man quietly. When the thief got to where he usually stole eggs, he quickly brought out his sack. But when he moved closer, his hope was dashed. His jaw dropped, he gasped and beat his chest because there were no eggs! The thief thought he was in dreamland. Then he pulled his mask up and looked out under it about the poultry, flashing his torch in disappointment. Not to leave the farm empty handed, he decided to steal some hens. With filthy hands, he grabbed hold of a hen and twisted the neck. The fowl stretched and he placed the lifeless creature into the sack. The wicked soul smiled faintly and turned to the next hen. But just as he grabbed it and almost robbed the hen of its life, Mr. Ajayi and Tolu rushed in, flashing torch and wielding their weapons at the thief.
Seeing the men, the thief was alarmed and he almost died of fear. He threw the sack away and took to his heels. As he faced the exit with his legs almost touching the back of his head, Tolu ran after him and brought down the thief with a blow. The criminal groaned in pains as he crashed on the floor. Mr. Ajayi and Tolu stood over him with torch to his face. “Show your face!” Mr. Ajayi thundered with his cutlass hanging in the air, though, he was not ready to shed his blood.
Afraid he might get killed if he refused; the thief reluctantly took off his mask. Mr. Ajayi did not believe his eyes. He thought he was in dreamland. So, he wiped his face with the back of his hand and looked carefully again. His mouth and eyes were widened in surprise when he realized that the thief was his friend, Mr. Bode. He exchanged sad glance with Tolu and shook his head. “So, you are the person doing this to me!” the farmer roared as he returned same glance to his friend. Mr. Bode looked foolish and tried to hide his face in shame. “Please, don’t kill me. I will return what I have stolen!” He could not help the quiver in his voice. “Shut up! Why did you decide to ruin me, Bode?” Mr. Bode burst into tears and tried to explain: “It’s the devil. I don’t know what came over me!” The farmer chewed his lower lip angrily. Then he paced up and down, pondering what next to do. After a time, he paused as if an idea just flew into his head. Then he turned to the thief and ordered: “Tolu, tie him to the tree. Before mid day tomorrow, I would have decided on what to do with this old bat!” Before Mr. Bode could blink, Tolu dragged him to the foot of the almond tree. He tied him hand and feet to the tree. Thereafter, Tolu and the farmer moved into a shadow.
Shedrach Ayalomeh is one of the best illustrators in Nigeria. He has worked with numerous publishers and advertising agencies in Nigeria and abroad: Some of the notable firms are Human Change Communications Company, Bouncing Ball Books, Cassava Republic, Learnrite Publishers, Calabash...For your freelance illustrations contact him @http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001314903129, email: firstname.lastname@example.org...
Nigerian writer Omoruyi Uwuigiaren lends his sweet African voice to a story for children of all ages, "The City Heroes". You may find your own personality in one of 'Ruyi's' five cats who stalk the city and telling their tales of woe. A must read! Visit: moronicox.com
Omoruyi Uwuigiaren's writing achievements include nine articles, sixty-five cartoons, and nine books published under his own name. Ruyi not only writes, he publishes books for children. The Vanguard newspapers, the Publicist International, Moronic Ox, TownCrier Times and other literary journals have published his works.