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Kintu and Nambi; The Final Task #28

Continued from; The Key to all Wars #27

By Mutebi Wilson

“Almighty Gulu roars! All hail Gulu! Almighty Gulu roars!”

Before me, stood the mad crowd as father stepped forward and the drums followed with their thundering rhythm joining the  praise song of the servants. The sound competed with the  deafening clap of  thunder that foreshadowed the coming of a storm. The dark clouds that filled the sky seemed to morph into shapes of both the known and unknown creatures that roamed the heavens and the earth.The impending storm however, failed to keep the light of day at bay as shards of the sun’s rays seemed to pierce the blanket of darkness, like spikes shooting through the flesh of the dark clouds.Indeed, all the gods had gathered to witness this event. 

It was on such a morning that the final task, which would determine the fate of Kintu and Nambi, was to take place and it was clear to me that on this day,no one could render the hand of the gods to the poor human. Gulu, himself was around intending to watch all the proceedings with hawk-eyes. Kintu was truly on his own.

I hardly had an idea of what Father had seen the previous day. The only thing that comforted me was that it had been enough to save the human’s life. He had escaped the wrath of Gulu with his life even though immortality was lost to him now. A thought that waned the feeling of satisfaction that had started to grow within me.

I rarely used my gift of sight because I had no control over what one would see. The past, present or future. It was a thing of fate I had surmised. One would see what they needed to see. This was a reality that made me grim and kept me from sharing my power. The thought of someone seeing something other than what I wanted them to see, filled me with terror whenever I had used this gift of mine. In a bid to help out Nambi, I needed to show Father what I knew about the human and I hoped he had not seen anything else.

I turned my head back to the Palace gates and could see the old man walk steadily to the front of the crowd  with his chest drawn out as though he still held the pride of his youth somewhere in his feeble body.Each step he made was slow but that of a sure minded man. His pride was a trait that had followed him from as early on as I could remember.He wore it like an anklet in every step he made. It was an undertone to  every word he uttered. 

 Walumbe walked  right behind Father wearing a sullen look on his face. His bloodshot eyes seemed to shine with all the rage that filled his veins. He badly wanted Kintu to fail but so far it looked as though all he had wished for and wanted was just another dream.

Gulu raised his hand as his eyes closed, enjoying the  sweet sense of power he always craved even when he had it. There was a reason he was called the Almighty afterall. All the noise died down and a ghost-like silence filled the air. One could suddenly hear the whistling of the airy breeze that blew all over  the assembly of gods and servants that had come to witness Kintu fail and die or win and beat Gulu at his own game.

“All the beings of the heavens,”Father bellowed, “Joined by the darkness and the light, the gods and the Lubiri servants have come together today to witness the final task that sees the goddess, princess of the heavens given away or retained.” 

His voice was steady and did not falter.It brought back a memory from my youth where I had heard one of the servants say that the immortality of the gods allowed them to be reborn over and over again. They would always live. The way Father enamoured the crowd was not in the way an old man would. His stance was filled with the bravado of a young warrior getting ready for battle. In that moment, it struck me that perhaps there was some truth to what the servants said. 

As soon as he finished with his little speech, an uproar rose up from the crowd; a thump of feet, a shout of jubilating voices mingled with the clapping of hands. I could tell that everyone was waiting for the final part of the entire event. It was unnerving not to know what Father had seen when I touched his head but surely, it was neither good nor bad news for the two lovers. Gulu could only entertain such a crowd and say such words only if the decision that he was about to make was irrevocable.

My gaze shifted from Father to Walumbe, who, failing to stand still,kept on shifting his weight from one leg to the other. The decorum at ceremonies was not something he dealt with very well. At his side, he held his sharp spear, the sun glinting on its head and even from where I was, I noticed that the spear had been sharpened recently. My brother was prepared to kill. 

He was not happy about what was about to happen. His heart was already decided and did not hold a  shred of mercy for the man who had already paid with his immortality, so that he could be united to our sister. He was such an evil thing and it did not take me long to realize the apex of the weapon was meant for Kintu in case he won against Father. Walumbe would rather Kintu died, than lose Nambi. 

The drums went up again and the servants’ praise for Father mixed wonderfully with their resounding beat.  I could not help but smile as I thought about my sister, Nambi. She was a sweet thing with a heart made of gold. Her innocence and beauty had won the sympathy of many of the gods, though no one dared to get close to the daughter of the king; a princess and a goddess. All the hosts of the heavens surely sided with Nambi. 

I looked on keenly as Kintu advanced from the throng. This was his final task,to find his precious cow amongst the ones that belonged to Gulu. Now, that was one hell of a task and I had no idea how it would work out.

He appeared calm and determined, and I could not stop myself from thinking why. Father had a lot of cattle. How exactly was he going to find his cow and its three calves?

I wondered if he perceived the difficulty of the task that awaited him. With Gulu present and at the fore- front of the spectators, it was hard for anyone to render a helping hand. Even Nambi, I am sure, was defeated by now. Gulu’s gaze upon the human was unwavering. The ball was in Kintu’s hands.

I was startled by the feeling of  a smooth hand upon my shoulder that pulled me down slightly. I turned to look at whoever was disturbing my train of thoughts with a vicious look on my face, that rapidly softened when I realised that it was Nambi. Her usually glowing skin was ashy and bags had formed under her eyes. The look on her face pulled at my heart-strings and for a moment, I hated the human. He had caused her so much pain and yet brought her so much happiness at the same time. Her face lit up whenever she saw him. I may have been a stranger to such feelings but I knew the bond they shared could not be duplicated.

“Take this and free it at the fore-front of the crowd”, she whispered in my ear. A silent plea in her eyes. I shook my head to show I would do what she said and swung my gaze back to Walumbe.

He was oblivious to his surroundings as his eyes like Father’s seemed to only be drawn to one thing , the human. I clasped hands with Nambi and she put something small that tickled into my hand. I clenched my hand to prevent it from escaping as I struggled with the tickle that it gave me and steadily walked  forward through those that stood before me, the crowd parting to give me way. Being a prince had its perks.

I reached the fore-front and smiled grimly at Father as he recognised my presence. I could feel the eyes of Walumbe boring into me.If he could, I would have assumed he was reading my mind. Thank the heavens he was no mind reader. 

I was sure he knew we were already planning something. I unclenched my hand and a small bee flew out. I was hardly surprised. Nambi had used her ability to save Kintu. Why had I not thought about this? 

A grin spread on my face as I clapped to hide my mischief. I turned and looked at Walumbe who withdrew his look with a few silent curse words flowing from his mouth. He hated that I was clapping for Kintu along with some people from the crowd. It seemed the human, like Nambi had won the people’s hearts.

Father snapped his fingers and immediately the noise died down.

“Look for your cow alongside all its calves from the kraal,” he commanded.

The bee flew towards Kintu and hovered for a moment in front of him. The battle was now between Nambi and Father. Were we acting disrespectfully? That I do not know. What I knew was that we were giving a weak man justice in the court of an unjust judge and his corrupted son. As much as I hated Kintu, Nambi had every right to love him. I did not care much anyway. Kintu was now a mortal and Nambi was still immortal and even her babies could be immortal. Kintu would die off and eventually, I could get my sister back. Only Walumbe would stand in their way in case they dared to get away with this. He has always been foolish and that fact is not about to change.

Before Kintu, was the huge kraal. It was filled with cattle of the same hide. The calves in it were mainly of three different kinds of hides. I knew that Kintu’s cow had produced three calves, but would he manage to locate them? He did not know that and even though I thought he would be confused or at the very least surprised by this revelation, he still wore an air of confidence that must have irked  Walumbe, who was now breathing heavily like a bull that is about to charge at its enemy.

Only Gulu, the master of the universe would hold such knowledge that could define things without even having seen a single one of them.

The bee flew forward as Kintu followed it. Everyone watched on with keen interest. Such were the sports of the gods. It landed on the first calf. Kintu tapped it. 

A servant walked in, put a rope around its neck and struggled to get it out of the kraal. He stumbled as the cow dung caused his fall since it made the ground slippery. Another servant watching the struggle and realising his mate needed help rushed in to aid him.

 I watched a smirk form on Father’s face. He knew that even if Kintu had managed to find the first of his animals, he did not stand a chance when it came to getting the others right.  The bee continued to the next calf and then the last one was found as well. Gulu’s eyes narrowed, his brows drawing together and his lips thinning into a grim line  as the two  servants struggled with the rest of the calves. By this point, they were both covered in cow dung and I was sure they would struggle to get the horrid stench out of their garments. Father’s smirk had disappeared and the tension in the air was so thick, I could hardly draw a breath.

Kintu had gotten all the calves right, what was remaining was the cow. Would he find it?

The silence that had blanketed the crowd dissipated as  people started muttering amongst themselves. I turned my head back and noticed the shocked expressions on a good number of their faces. It was then that I realized Gulu had lifted up his right arm and was counting off the number of times Kintu had found his animals. No one had expected the ease with which he was finding his animals and I assumed that is what the muttering was about. The rumour mill was now full and I was sure a number of tales were being spun.

Kintu followed the bee as it began to move towards the exit of the kraal and Walumbe scoffed at his failure wearing a smile that made me shudder. He had identified the three calves that he had never seen, and yet he had failed to identify his own cow. However, just as Kintu reached the edge of the kraal,he turned to his left and tapped  the cow next to him.

“This one also,” he said. I released a breath I did not realise I was holding and I was filled with a sense of relief. He bent down to give his cow an embrace and once again I was reminded by how filthy he had always been in the first place. I looked at Father. His face betrayed no emotion and I could not tell what he was thinking. The crowd however, was more interesting and I swung my gaze back to it.

All  eyes were set on Gulu and his raised arm.

There was a murmur through the gathered crowd as some people still tried to discern the meaning of his raised arm. Had Kintu failed his task?

“Fools!, fools!” Gulu growled.

He raised the fourth finger and at once, the noise increased into an even mightier uproar. Kintu had won his prize. Nambi’s love had finally defeated even the Almighty Gulu. There was a reason to celebrate. But who knew if Walumbe’s spear would ever fail to catch its prey.

To be continued next week on Wednesday

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