There was a second heavy bang, he pretends to be asleep and igno red the sound of the waking bell or the bang on his door.
He knew this maybe his fate if the God that Lydia talked about do not come to save him.
He has accepted Lydia’s God as his even before meeting her, right back in Gwali, his home town when the missionary came and pitched a tent in their soil, they called it the gathering of believers.
He has attended twice with his friend, who died doing the war.
Gwali used to be a place for all. Even foreigners finds a home with them and are well provided from the farm product which was their main source of living. It used to be a lovely place before it was invaded and everything him and his family had was taking away and he was captured as a slave and sold off to a man in Kish, after which a witch doctor
from a faraway Kebra which was a big town in Kish bought him and ever since he has served as a faithful and royal servant.
Performing every ritual with her in her wild temple and obeying every of her instruction. Following her orders which must not be disobeyed.
She was greatly feared by all and her two daughters was no difference except Aprin, the eldest daughter who was eighteen years of age.
He was captured four years ago when he was still sixteen years and it has not been easy serving in the priestess’s household.
“Dembe….Dembe…the great mother will punish you for lateness if you don’t report this minute to her temple…she is already there with Lady Aprin and Lady Sheila. The waking bell rang three times this morning and yet you are still in your quarter. I hope you won’t invoke the wrath of the priestess.
He knows who was speaking. Brami is one of the servant, she is in charge of the house welfare. An older woman who maybe in her late thirties or more. She was kind and carries out her duty without any grudge.
Dembe stood up, he took his satin overall long shirt and wore, and he also took a twisted identity belt which identifies him as a slave. He wrapped it around his waist before striping on his leather sandals.
He opened the door and walked out to the fountain, where he unstrapped himself and washed his face, his hand and his legs.
As he turned to leave, he saw Brami walking up to him.
“Good morning Brami…
Dembe greeted calmly.
“Is not going to be a good morning to you if the priestess finds out that you have been avoiding your early morning duties. I lost count of times you stay back in your room after the waking bell rang. You really do not want to get on the great mother’s bad side. She deals unkindly to anyone who steps on her toe. Avoid dodging your roles. Many of us don’t like what we do or the household we find ourselves but we don’t have a choice because we are bound to serve. Run ahead now Dembe before great mother gets mad at your delay…
Dembe ran off at Brami’s instruction.
He walks the long quiet corridor, the scent of burning incense filled the hall way, he can hear the morning spiritual chant of the priestess as he doubled up his step to her big temple. Her two daughters chorused along with her.
As he got closer, he removed his belt and overall shirt. Is forbidden to wear a footwear to the holy ground. He also pulled off his sandals, kept it at one corner of the passage.
He was bare chested, only with his long brown pant.
Dembe was meant to take a bow, perform the honourable rite to the underwood gods before walking in fully to wait in silent for the priestess next order.
He was not in the mood that morning to do any of that. He tried to avoid saying his greetings to the underwood gods or perform his honourable rites. He can see the priestess was already facing the massive shrine with her hands spread out. Her loud and strong voice was in a serious chant, it echoes round the building. Her two daughters where on each side of her hands. They were carrying a burning pot of incense in their hands. They dressed in the same pattern white negligee with bare foot.
Dembe pretend to bow, he remain so for few seconds without saying his normal greetings to the gods. He later stood and walked a little closer to where the priestess was.
He was not meant to get closer to her, he kept his distance and with his head bow, he waited in silent.
The priestess suddenly turned to him, there were different colours of burning candles everywhere. Dembe’s head remain low as the priestess slowly walks up to him.
A noisy wind blows terrifying cold around him.
Dembe tries to shut his eyes and think of his home town in Gwali, how they run through the forest singing and laughing, jumping from tree to tree and eating wild fruits. Those memories are what kept him sane. He would have gone crazy with his present environment that is unhealthy and filled with polluted air with different animals been burnt to ashes in a sacrificial rite every day.
“You possessed wicked servant, why did you not perform your usual rite this morning? You forgot that this is a holy place and the hawk’s eyes sees your every movement…why will you step into my coven without a worship to the great underwood gods of the sea, fire, animals and humans….
She strike Dembe hard across the face, it was a heavy slap which sounded like a thunder to his ears. Before he will get himself another hard strike came again.
He felt dizzy but remain standing.
The priestess’s two daughters watch in silent as their mother hit Dembe angrily for refusing to accord a duly respect to the underwood gods.
The younger daughter began to laugh as their mother hit Dembe but the older one wore a straight face.
The priestess wasn’t done with Dembe, she was determined to deal with him and just as she raise another hand to strike him again.
Aprin, the older daughter called out.
“Mother…mother. We are inside the holy temple. Remember no human blood is allowed here today. if Dembe’s sustain an injury and his blood drops on this ground it will defy the whole weekly ritual and the underwood gods may not be happy. Please pardon his negligence and pay no attention to his foolishness. You are the great priestess, an eye to the goddess, you rode on the hawk’s wings and land on a serpent back. I besiege you to be merciful to him mother as you have always been to all human kind which is why the people of Kebra calls you the great mother…
The priestess retrieved her hand as her first daughter showers praises on her.
She smile and gasped out her but Sheila her second daughter was enjoying the morning show and wanted her mother to continue.
“Mother show no mercy to this infidel, he did not only arrive late but he also broke the rules and disobeyed your orders. No one dares to disobey the great mother of Kebra. His blood will be pleasing to the underwood gods and I will be glad to watch his eyes get plucked out by the great hawk. Mother you said mercy and forgiveness makes us a weaker vessel, everyone deserve to be serve according to his or her crime. Let the servant boy be tortured for his stupidity and pride . I’m enjoying the scene….
Dembe went on his knees and pleaded to be forgiven. He was asked to go back and perform his normal worship and he obediently did before returning.
Dembe was the abattoir boy, he was in charge of slaughtering animals for sacrifice which was his every morning duty. Yesterday he has slaughtered a pig and today he will be killing another animal for the priestess sacrifice.
He always comes to the temple during the early morning worship and wait for the priestess instruction on the animal to kill for that day.
He was tired of all the bloody job that was assigned to him. He wish he was a cook, a cleaner, gardener, errand servant or any other job but never his present task.
It was disgusting to him and despite how much he detest it, he tried not to show his disapproval because it may mean his death.
His life and death was in the hand of his
master or mistress. The only thing that can save him is if he marries a daughter of the soil and with that he will be able to be free from slavery but without that he is bond forever to his owner and they determine if he lives or dies.
Dembe was asked to go and slaughter five pigeon for the day sacrifice, he left to carry out his duty. His eyes was almost blood shot from the strike that the priestess dish out to him that morning.
It was almost noon day when he returned with the slaughtered pigeons filled up in a big basin.
The priestess was in the temple waiting with her daughters when he came back.
His body was covered with pigeon feathers and blood but it appear normal to him.
After dropping the bloody big silver basin with the pigeons, he took several bow before leaving the temple.
Dembe washed off himself close to the fountain, he took his overall shirt and slave belt, and he striped up his sandals and went for his daily meal in the kitchen.
As evening approach, he prepared to go into the market to purchase a piglet for tomorrow’s offering.
As he was about to stepped out when he saw Aprin who was sitting outside.
“My Lady I’m grateful for your kindness to me this morning. You spoke to my defence and I’m deeply grateful.
Dembe bow his head in respect to her to as he awaits her orders to leave but instead Aprin began to speak.
“You should try and avoid getting on mother’s bad side, she spares no one when she is crossed. You may think she doesn’t see you but she sees far beyond what you can imagine. By the way, I’m invited to a royal dance in this upcoming week. I will be going with my betrothal, Lord Bash….i also want you to come along with my personal slave girl. I will tell mother and Lord Bash will not mind at all. He agrees to whatever pleases me. The dance is in six days from now.
Aprin smiled at Dembe as she asked him to stand aright but he did not return the smile, he nodded to her orders before walking away.
Aprin was kind to him, he was always stepping in to save him from the priestess and from her harsh sister Sheila.
It was obvious that Aprin likes him but she was betrothed and will be getting married to the politician’s rich son, Lord Bash.
She tries to pretend to everyone but those who can see through her knows that she wasn’t happy with the proposed marriage between her and Lord Bash.
Getting married to one of the priestess’s daughter was what most young men will fight for. The priestess was very popular and greatly feared in Kebra.
Anybody that will marry the first daughter of the priestess will automatically become a priest because Aprin was the next in line of the priestess after her mother.
Visitors travels from far and near to seek her for one thing or the other
Dembe likes Lydia. The slave girl living with her master and mistress close to the market place and he will get to see her again today.
Lydia knows the normal time that Dembe goes to the market and will also be around their usual hideout by the hill side waiting for Dembe to arrive.
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