The wailing of the doomed girls grew louder as the glittering city gate of Lumorisha came into the sight of the travelling party. The travellers were in three groups: the slaves who balanced baskets of cowries and fine clothing materials on their heads, the doomed girls, distinguishable by the three horizontal lines of native chalk drawn across their foreheads, who were to be offered to be delivered to the rulers of Lumorisha as appeasement for the plague that afflicted Iluuwa, and the elite warriors accompanying those in the other groups to ensure that they were not attacked by rogue bandits before they got to their destination.
Ladipo, one of the elite warriors constantly clenched and unclenched his fists as the party made their way down the wide path that led to Lumorisha. The sweltering heat of the afternoon sun beat down on his clean-shaven head and ensured that his short-sleeved vest was soaked in perspiration.
“Ogagun, edakun mo fe seyo,” one of the slave girls cried. Commander, I beg you, let me ease myself.
“Enough of this nonsense!” the commander barked. “Did we not stop for one of you the other time? This is the last chance I’m giving all of you. Ease yourselves now, we will not stop till we get to Lumorisha.”
The train of moving humans grinded to halt as the commander held his sword up to signal a pause in their journey. The girl who had requested the opportunity to empty her bladder quickly dropped her basket and headed towards a bush nearby to do what she needed to do.
“Follow her,” the commander said to Ladipo.
Ladipo took a moment to bow to the commander before he started after the girl. As he followed her deeper into the bush, he dropped his left hand to his sheath to draw his sword. He had to be prepared if the girl tried to do something stupid.
“Please, is it true they will kill us too?” the girl asked as she hiked her wrapper and crouched.
Ladipo heaved a sigh. He was not certain about these things. Veteran elite warriors who have made countless of journeys to Lumorisha for decades still found Morishas unpredictable, talk more of he who had just fought his way into the elite group in the last harvest season. Morishas could decide to kill all the slaves and the doomed girls right on the spot, they could slay the doomed girls and keep some of the slaves as objects of their lustful desires while they let others go. Sometimes they would keep the doomed girls for months, ravaging them with their giant phalluses before beheading them. There was no method to their actions, to their madness. Morishas did as they liked.
“I don’t know,” Ladipo replied. “Just pray to the gods to keep you safe.”
“Do the gods listen to the prayers of humans when their sons are involved?” the slave queried. “Oh my creator, let me not be unfortunate. I am but a child. I have borne no children. I have not felt the weight of a man against my chest. Save me, let me not die young.”
Ladipo felt a dose of pity for this poor girl. He felt she was right about the gods siding the Morishas who were their offsprings against humans. If not, why would the gods allow the Morishas so much power that made them to have all the cities of the earth under their feet? Why would they take heavy tributes from all nations of the earth and afflict defaulters with the vilest of plagues?
His own family too had suffered the wickedness of the Morishas and the unfair silence of the gods to the malevolent acts of their direct descendants. His elder sister, Tinuola, had been picked by Ifa as one of the maidens to appease Morishas after an outbreak of smallpox eight years ago. His beautiful sister, ever smiling, ever joyful, with her usual Shuku hairstyle adorning her head. He would never see her again. She was the reason he joined the army of Illuwa. She was the driving force behind every swing of his sword and every stab of his spear. It was the anger of losing her that drove him to the attain the elite status he possessed in the King’s army at the youthful age of nineteen. She was the reason he was making this journey.
“Ladipo, what’s going on? Is she peeing a river?” the commander’s voice boomed from outside. “Hasten up and let us go.”
The slave quickly rose and retied her wrapper. Ladipo followed her back to where others stood and they resumed their journey towards the golden city of the sons of gods. The doomed girls were still lamenting about the fate that awaited them on the other side of the wall. For a moment, Ladipo wondered why Commander Ibako who was widely known for having a short fuse, did not attempt to prevent them from wailing so loudly; then he concluded that there was no point threatening someone that was marked for death already. The least that could be done for them was to allow them speak of their woes.
“Ha! Aye mi baje oooo,” one of the doomed girls wailed. My life is ruined.
“Iya mi, ma sun lorun,” another one cried. Mother, don’t sleep in heaven.
Ladipo’s heart went out to this young maidens whose only crime was that they were unlucky enough to be picked by the Ifa priest after he consulted the Oracle. Many young girls have been sacrificied to sate the bloody cravings of the Morishas in the past and many more would be sacrificied in the future, unless something changed.
Don’t ever look a Morisha in the eye.
Those were the words of Baba Alagbo, the wise, old man who always gathered children at night to tell them stories in the part of Illuwa village where Ladipo lived with his parents. He had gone to meet the old man the night after his sister was taken away to ask him how he could kill a Morisha.
“Paada! Don’t ever say that again,” Baba Alagbo said. “Don’t you know who a Morisha is? You don’t know that they have blood of gods running through their veins even though they look like humans?”
“But baba, you once told us there’s no creature too big for Olodumare to bring down. Why are the Morishas different?”
“You are but a child with no understanding,” Baba Alagbo spat. “Don’t get any funny ideas. Attempting to defy a Morisha brings nothing but death. They are beyond the power of we mortals. Only the gods can do anything about them. In your life, if you ever come across one, don’t ever look a Morisha in the eye…”
By now, they had arrived at the gate of Lumorisha. There were squads of Morisha guards there, dressed in helmets and body armours made of pure gold. Some of them were on foot while some others were mounted on sparkling white horses. Those horses were so white that Ladipo wondered if they were real or beings of magic. A large flag flew over the mighty wall of the city. It had the face of Beleke, the present ruler of the city, on it.
Commander Ibako bowed his head as soon as the travelling party got to the front of the city guards. Everyone behind the commander did the same.
“Where are you from?” one of the guards bellowed.
“Iluuwa,” Ibako replied immediately, with his head still bowed.
Never look a Morisha in the eye.
“You filthy bastards,” the guard said. “Your chief never pays his tributes on time. Tell him the next time he delays, he would have nothing to rule anymore. Baami Sanponna will render his village empty. You hear me?”
“Yes, your honour,” Ibako replied.
Ladipo shook his head slightly. Morishas were complaining of delayed tributes when they were the one that destroyed the economy of Iluuwa with their unending, outrageous demands.
The Morisha guard gestured Commander Ibako towards the entry point and the travellers instantly went into the city. There were hundreds of humans like them who had come to plead the mercy of the sons of gods. Ladipo looked around seeing different shapes and sizes of maidens who were going to lose their lives for no just reason. Something had to be done!
But never look a Morisha in the eye.
The appeasement process was to be conducted in a large hall. The travellers from Iluuwa made their way into the hall and found a spot that was big enough to contain them. From what Ladipo had been told, Morisha guards would go to each group and check what they had brought. If their offerings were satisfactory and they brought the required number of maidens, the guards would give them a white stone to take back to their land and within a day, whatever plague was afflicting them would cease. Ladipo’s fist now began to clench and unclench again. The moment he had been waiting for was at hand. He could barely hold back his anticipation.
They waited for a long time before a Morisha guard sauntered over with a slate in his hands. Ibako instantly bowed as soon as the guard reached where his party stood. Ladipo knew why Ibako was being so deferential, a certain commander from Iluuwa had once been beheaded at Lumorisha for not being respectful enough.
“What have you brought?” the guard demanded. He was dressed like his brethren, armour and weapon all sparkling.
“My lord, we have brought everything necessary. We plead with you to free our village from the plague. Our people are dying in tens everyday.”
The Morisha brushed past commander Ibako as if he had not said anything. He began to check out the doomed girls one after the other.
“Ibadi ileke,” he said with a wicked grin as he slapped the buttocks of one of the girls. Buttocks lined with waist beads.
Ladipo felt an upwelling of anger. Was this how this wicked beasts touched his sister?
The Morisha continued his inspection and nodded when he was done. “Your maidens are acceptable. Where are your offerings?”
Commander Ibako pointed to where the slaves knelt in a row with their baskets still balanced on their heads. The Morisha started to inspect the goods brought as well.
“Aso alaari,” he mumbled as he opened a basket. Purple clothing.
He got to the slave nearest to Ladipo and bent to inspect her basket, but he suddenly changed his mind. He reached out and grabbed the left breast of the slave, squeezing it hard.
Morishas can do what they like. Never look a Morisha in the…
There was a groan of pain and a collective gasp from the people around. Ladipo had hacked the offending hand of the Morisha. All heads in the hall were turned as the Morisha gave a loud roar and grabbed his stumped hand in agony as golden fluid flowed out of it. The severed part of his hand still remained on the slaves’ breast.
“What madness is this, Ladipo?” Commander Ibako howled.
Ladipo ignored his commander. His attention was focused on the Morisha before him who raised his hand in the air and shut his eyes. In the next moment, a new grew to replace the severed part.
Attempting to defy a Morisha brings nothing but death.
Ladipo saw other Morishas running towards him, their large swords drawn, ready to punish his outrageous insolence.
“Sons of men,” Ladipo roared with all his strength. “Morishas have plundered our lands and killed our people for decades. When shall we ever be free? Rise now! We are more than they are. Let us cut their heads until they won’t grow back anymore.”
Ladipo’s rallying speech was not greeted by immediate response. Other humans looked on as the Morishas closed in on him. Ladipo assumed a fighting stance with his sword held at the ready. Whether others supported him or not, he would take on the Morishas and die if he had to.
“You wicked souls,” a human soldier from another group close by yelled as he too unsheathed his sword and charged towards the Morishas.
Then another soldier stood up and yet another. Before long, humans and Morishas were engaged in a battle for supremacy. A battle that would be remembered for centuries to come…
Morisha: Contraction for Omo Orisha, meaning children of gods.
Lumorisha: Contraction for Ilu omo orisha, meaning the city of the children of gods.
Olodumare: The patron god among other deities. The Yoruba equivalent of God.