The next day, everybody’s eyes fixed on a large television found in the police station, watching how the news of the magical eyeglasses was broadcasted. Ken stood with her mother, Mrs Ukachi, who laid her head on Mr Raymond’s shoulder, while Ikuku stood alone. Jade didn’t hesitate to be present there too.
However, Mercy and her mother was at home, mourning Mr Nnanna, yet, didn’t fail to watch the news. Wisdom and Mr Dennis, the father, fed both their eyes and ears as the news caster broadcasted thus: “..the finding and discovery of the magical eyeglasses brought about the death of three people which two are foreigners who came for the quest to get it from the bearer, Ken Uba. The knowledge of this by anyone is believed to have brought about death of citizens by those called Graths. This happens every two days unless the bearer travels to Mount Loom to answer unimaginable difficult riddles…”
Lyman forcefully turned Ken around in the police station like a criminal wanting to escape. “I know you know exactly what you have brought upon the city! I order you to start going to Mount Loom now before the Graths, or whosoever they are start attacking us”
Ken adjusted his shirt properly and glared at him. “Don’t you dare turch me forcefully again!” he retorted.
Lyman provoked as others watched both of them. “Are you talking back at me?”
“Don’t push the boy” Ikuku interfered, stepping forward while all eyes went to him. “It is left for him to decide if he will go to Mount Loom or not coz going there is a matter of life and death. It’s not a place for dumb idiot, it’s for clever men. So I support you don’t force him coz he has already made up his mind to go”
Quietness stretched from inside to outside. Only the sound of the television was heard until Jade broke it saying, “I’m going with Ken to Mount Loom”
“That’s not necessary. Anything to be done there must be done by Ken alone” Ikuku explained.
“I just don’t want to leave his sight” Jade stood by him while the parents looked at them. Meanwhile, Mrs Ukachi had started shedding tears. One could see Mr Raymond trying to dry them like a caring gentle man. Everything happening was like a dream to them especially Mrs Ukachi. Suddenly, she hugged her son when he wanted to leave thereby increasing her tears.
“We are running out of time” Lyman demanded for a bottle water, opened it and began to drink.
Ken set to leave, he looked at Ikuku and said, “Lead the way to Mount Loom”
Ikuku exhaled heavily and began to walk towards the exit, followed by Ken. Jade hugged her father and mother to be then followed them outside to see crowd of journalists ready to gather more information. They were at a metal gate of the police station. Jade looked at Ken and Ken to Ikuku. They were once again feeling like celebrities. Nevertheless, policemen cleared the gate for them before they passed without giving any report.
At Roland hospital, Wisdom watched the door of his sick room opened and Jade entered to see only him sitting at edge of the bed. She wore a trouser and a black round collar T-shirt. Both kept staring at each other until she stood before him like a girl thrown with complicated question. As Wisdom stared at her, she quickly bent and kissed him before going back to her position, twisting her fingers.
“Hi.. how are you feeling?”
“You came to say good bye” Wisdom understood her attitude.
She slid her short plaited hair. “Ken said you should be strong”
“You don’t need to follow him to Mount Loom”
“I know and I’m also scared to have anything happen to him”
Both became quiet for a while until Wisdom said, “Be careful”
“You too” Jade began to leave. Just at the door, Wisdom called without looking at her. He said “I love you, Jade”
Jade smiled, hurried back, kissed him again and said, “I love you to” she ran out.
Ken, Ikuku and Jade set to surge forward to Mount Loom through the appian way that leads to Ututu, Ikuku’s homeland, and through which the clever teenagers came back to the city after defeating goddess of cleverness. After they were dropped by the police, Ikuku looked at Ken and began, “Like I told you, you are embarking on a life or death journey. I’ll like to teach you everything about riddles before…”
“Ken!” a voice interrupted him. They turned to see Mercy running to them. Ken’s heartbeat increased at the sight of her, so he stepped forward surprisingly to have her embrace him tightly. He didn’t know when he reciprocated the hug. Jade smiled.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
“I’m going with you” she replied in a hurry.
“It’s dangerous, Mercy”
“Which is more dangerous: to be attacked by the Graths or to follow you to mount Loom?”
Ken stared into her eyes to see how desperate she was. He turned to Ikuku who nodded his head in approval before looking back at Mercy. “It’s your mum aware?”
“I left a note for her” she replied.
Ken led her to Ikuku and Jade who said with a smile. “I guess this answers the question I asked you one certain day”
Ken glanced at her. “Which was?”
“Do you have a girlfriend?”
Ken smiled and looked at Mercy, yet, remained quiet.
“She’s cool” Jade added.
They approached to the very gate that leads to Ututu and eventually to Mount Loom. Of course there was a riddle to unlock it. Mercy read it thus: “The more you take, the more you leave behind. What are you?”
“Let me try it” she demanded.
Ikuku looked at her just as Ken couldn’t take his eyes off her. Jade folded her hands, all waiting to hear the answer from Mercy.
“I am food!” she shouted.
Ikuku smiled. “You tried, dear little girl”
“I’m not little” Mercy objected.
“We have no time” Jade walked before the gate. “I am footsteps!” She answered the riddle and the gate opened like a miracle in the sight of Mercy.
“Wow! Footsteps?” She murmured as she followed them through the gate to Ututu where they prepared before heading to Mount Loom. They walked like fugitives along rocky roads, sandy and bushy paths that led them to the entrance of Mount Loom which was in circular form and partially covered by grasses. Already, they had walked for hours before getting there. It could be seen on the movement of the teenagers especially Mercy, who sat down on the ground to recover lost strength.
“Now, listen to me” Ikuku began. “We have come to the beginning of the journey. Ken is the only one allowed to answer any riddle until we meet the god of cleverness. You must stay close to each other no matter what happens” he looked at Ken with a pitiful face. “I know you’ll make it out there alive. Remember all I taught you about riddles. Be brave, strong and clever as you have always do. You’ll get to a point where your life will depend on riddles”
Ken nodded his head.
“So I guess he has to take us in by answering a riddle” Jade said, staring at the rocky closed entrance. “But no riddle on it” she added.
“It will appear” Ikuku replied as all stared at it until writing in form of flames began to show on it which made Mercy run close to Ken. After the writing, Ken read the riddle as thus: “My life can be measured in hours, I serve by being devoured. Thin, I am quick. Fat, I am slow. Wind is my foe. What am I?”
“God, this is hard!” Mercy confessed. “If the beginning is like this, the end will be a bomb” she whispered in the air.
Ken glanced at her then looked at riddles again. “You are a candle” she answered the riddle with ease, then the rocky entrance opened like the lid of a tunnel.
“Nice start” Ikuku led the way, followed by Jade, Mercy before Ken who glanced back as an after thought. The door closed.
“Hold my hand, Ken” Mercy’s voice echoed from inside….
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