Our old man took his small snuff bottle, hit it on his his palm vigorously before putting some of the stuff on the same left mitt and then sniffing it for a few minutes. That caused him to sneeze so loudly that it caused a rigorous front catapult that almost caused him to get off his three legged stool and falling into the burning embers before him. We were all excited by this that the naughty imitated him as the rest of us restrained our laughter which turned out to be giggles. That was his ritual everyday before telling his scary stories of ogres and the fearsome tree like creatures called enarero. We loved the stories but it made us scared to even go out and take a leak in the middle of the night for we thought, the monsters lurked in the bushes and in the gloom.
“So, lads. are you ready to hear the story of the hero who became a traitor?” he asked as he turned his eyes around for a responce.
“Yes, kaguya (grandfather)!” we all responded.
“I shall start by asking you a riddle. Whoever gets it, I shall give the biggest oloing’oni (bull) in the herd. Are you ready?” he boomed living us elated for we knew how serious our grandfather was about his promises. Leken, my half brother, was already rich with five bulls and ten cows for being the brightest in the cradle. I was sure Emongo’o, the big bull, was already his for riddles were just a ride for him.
“Kidung’ ang’ata bkira aare nimiking’amaro? (The two of us cross the wilderness without talking to each other.)” he posed intelligently.
All our expressions were blank as none of us knew the answer. Leken, the witty one was our salvation we thought as all eyes turned towards him. Unfortunately he appeared blank too before he said meekly, “a lion and a gazelle.”
Grandfather shook his head then said, “Iyie oloip lino (You and your shadow).”
We sighed and shook our heads as we counted another lost opportunity.That left us thinking of how dumb we were for not seeing an answer staring right in out eyes on the walls of the big manyatta (hut). Riddles were easy but hard at the same time. That was the irony of things.
“Once upon a time there was a strong young moran who was known in all of the land of Maa. His reputation spread like the rays of the morning sun and was feared by everyone even by his enemies and friends,” grandfather begun his story, ” He had killed a great vicious lion that had terrorized the lands of his people killing their cows and donkeys, with only a spear and a shield. On the day before he tracked the beast his first wife prepared him well by applying fat on his skin and fed him with the finest sour milk and herbs. He tied his sword to his waist, picked up the tough, bull hide shield and his spear and headed out to face the lion
“He knew where to find it. Deep in the plains where the grass was tall enough to camouflage it. After a lengthy search that took hours, he spotted the animal preying on a herd of gazelles grazing away not cognizant with the impending danger. Lemein crouched and started advancing towards the lion before it caught a strange scent in the air and turned to come face to face with its death.”
The story went on, unlike previous story times none of the boys started nodding off in the middle of it. All of us were alert and attentive not wanting lose anything that night.
“It roared angrily, roaaar! scaring its meal away and turned to its adversity with much spite and hate. Anger boiled in it’s heart that you cold even observe a slight tremble on its mane. It took a few steps slowly before sprinting towards Lemein with the intent of killing him with one strike. Its teeth aimed for the neck and its massive paws were directed for his body. It just wanted to cause havoc and destruction on this intruder that had caused it it’s breakfast. However, just like any other ormurrani (warrior), Lemein was ready. He was patient till the creature was close enough and he raised his shield and caught the lion in mid-air. With one accurate blow, he send his spear deep in the lion’s body and made sure it sank till it appeared from the other side.
“The lion growled in deep pain and fell to one side before convulsing and dying after it bled out. Lemein looked down at his work of bravery and smiled. He unsheathed his sword, cut the mane, and tail to act as proof of his deed. His age mates appeared from the grasses, where they were waiting to see what will happen to their brother. They were proud of him for saving their cattle. It was easier to deal with the Nandi who they could negotiate with, rather than a beast that was not rational but governed by its appetite. That bold act added to his tally as a hero and his songs were sang, till he decided to betray his people.
“Now lads, go to sleep. I shall tell you how he became a traitor tomorrow,” grandfather said going into his chamber and fell onto his cow hide bed and fell asleep instantly. We could hear him snoring as the crickets chirped from their holes outside. We walked towards our own corner, near where the calves rested and fell asleep beside each other dreaming about the heroic warrior. At least for once we had good dreams for nightmares.
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