The Knife Flinger

©Samuel Mogbolu

Lorius Midel Ep 10

 

 

30/03/2017

“Oh,” I said, “so umm, are you excited?”

“Excited.” she said and clucked her tongue “I do not even know the man… and he is so far from our city you know” all this she said in the Fulani language.

“I understand,” I said, for lack of any other thing.

Her head snapped up at this and she gave me a slow wry smile.

“What do you understand?” she asked, “are you a woman? Only a woman can understand what I am going through.”

I liked her voice. Then a thought flashed through my mind.

“Can I see your face?”

She gasped, apparently startled.

“I am not supposed to do that…you know that,”

“I am sorry, how could I ask such a thing of a disciplined and responsible girl such as you.”

She just kept mute, staring at me.

“So umm, how long have you….” I started, trying to change the conversation?

“You really want to see my face?” she interrupted.

“Well yea,” I answered “you have such a beautiful voice, so I umm, could not help wondering,” I knew I was being rascally, but I liked her fiery attitude and… I wanted to see her face.

“Fine.” she said “think am a scared little girl huh?” and then she began unravelling her veil.

I could see Traore and Usman peeping at us with raised brows.

She unravelled her face.

One word: stunning; with dark hair, bright eyes and a lean face. I was satisfied by the wild look I saw in her eyes. I had this notion that her parents were in a hurry to marry her off before she would let loose.

“You are beautiful.” I said, like someone arriving at a very mysterious realization. She smiled.

“Well, your husband is a rather lucky man.” I continued and could see her smile grow dim in its intensity.

“I wish I was a lucky woman,” she said. Of course she viewed herself as a woman now, afterall she was about to get married; although she was probably only a year older than I was.

“How can you tell?” I asked, “You say you do not know the man,”

“I have heard of him…. He already has a couple of wives and he is not really a young man,” she answered.

As I stared at the beauty, I thanked God for making me a man. Heaven knows, I had no plans of getting married. The thought was just not appealing.

“So….” She was about to say something when we heard loud voices shouting.

“Amina! Amina! Where has she gone?”

“They are searching for me.” she said.

Her eyes did not look so fiery anymore; rather, they looked apprehensive as she made haste to readjust her veil.

She rushed out to the balcony and I could hear some of the voices on our floor, as they got closer to our door. I rushed out to see four, big angry men run towards her.

“What have you been doing up here!”  One shouted.

She just put her head down muttering, perhaps trying to portray remorse.

“Do you intend to disgrace your family!” they yelled and turned to stare at us.

Their glares were anything but friendly. They had the kind of look one would give to animal just before shooting it down.

 “Amina, Aminaa, Aminaaaa!” a new man shouted, as he rushed towards us “I feel pity for Alhaji!” he said as he gave her a resounding slap on the face.

His two companions rushed to him trying to restrain him, or more like pacify him.

“Stupid girl!” he shouted turning to his companions with a look of righteous exasperation- can you believe this girl???

She was sobbing now, as they dragged her with them, and then one turned to us.

“You stay away from her!”

………

“What a spirited girl.” I said when they were out of sight.

Traore turned to me.

“She certainly was not showing any spirit when those men were cruelly mobbing her.”

“Such choice of words,” I said, “if you felt so strongly for her, then why did you not intervene?”

He looked at me, opening his eyes wide.

“Intervene? Are you trying to get me married!” he exclaimed, “Her burden is too heavy for me to shoulder.”

Of course, he was right, but her face was still quite fresh in my mind and at the moment, my thoughts lacked rationality.

I wondered whether she had expected any reaction from me, as I found such a notion, greatly thrilling.

The eagle eyes of Traore were focused on me and so of course, I was obliged to conceal my state of mind.

“So,” he said, “you seemed taken by her….do you have any plans?”

“No plans Traore…I am Miletus alright? I do not scheme”

He squinted his eyes and I hastily continued “she is about to meet her new husband and I respect that.”

“Umhmm” he grunted still staring at me “if that is the way it is.”

“That is the way it is.” I insisted.

“Well, so what do you intend to spend the rest of the day doing?” he asked.

“I umm…I figure I will just rest and regain my strength as Lameer advised.”

“Rest and regain your strength.” he recited “you mean stare at the ceiling huh,” he said shaking his head in derision.

He then turned to Usman.

“This inn is like a prison, have you noticed? I hate the fact that it is so isolated.” Usman nodded agreeably.

“Come on; let us find something appealing to do. Stay with Miletus for a day, and you will become suicidal.” he said, pulling Usman with him.

“There are so many interesting people to meet here you know, or we could hire a carriage with the money your brother gave us,” I could hear Usman say to him as they walked away.

When they were out of sight, I strolled down the balcony, moving until I had come to the lowest floor.

I walked up to the pool to inspect closely, the nude statue as I had a weakness for sculptures. Then I looked around, noting the strolling guards, the stationary ones, the arches that led to glittering passages all around.

Some young men walked through one of the arches opposite me, arguing loudly about something as they hurried past.

I decided to go through that arch and view the chambers there as I ruminated on the whole edifice that was Al’ amarudeen inn.

 It was more than just an ordinary inn, this whole edifice. It was also a permanent residence perhaps for those who could afford it.

I strolled down the cool passage noting where the daylight stopped and the torchlights took over.

As I explored, I came out of the passage and back into the daylight, unto a large open floor, with another pool and a different golden statue in the middle of it.

All around this floor stood arches too, and balconies just like the former place.

I was amazed as I realized just how large the whole inn was. There was a vast hall in front, and I walked in to meet several sweaty men sparring with swords or their bare hands.

The whole place virtually bubbled with a myriad of activities and I did notice some men down in a large paved pit surrounded by steps, hurling darts at a target.

Now that was a place to be. I climbed down to join them, quite excited by this place.

“Move away lad, I want to teach these farts some manners.” a bald bearded man with a pregnant stomach yelled over the din as he edged us out of the way to make room for his ‘awesome skills’.

 After steadying himself for what seemed like an eternity, not just to me, but to other competitors (for I noticed there was an on-going bet), he finally hurled his dart amidst flying insults here and there.

“Look at the fool fidgeting, like he’s got the seizures” one had said.

“He is down to the last piece of all the two gold coins he brought here. Have a heart for the wretched,” said another.

The dart moved with promise and then lodged itself disloyally at an outer circle on the dart board.

The bald pregnant man scratched his luxuriant beard muttering, as some men generously helped him relieve his pockets of the remaining coins of gold and silver he had there.

They even took his outer coat. Still he went on challenging.

“Aww come on gents…I have been saving the best for last. Fifty pieces of gold says I hit the bullseye dead on,” he drawled.

“Yea, yea,” others answered not at all interested in betting with him as it was obvious that the only things he had to offer were the remaining clothes, which he had on.

I stayed there, carefully watching most of the darters display their skills as pouches of gold were transferred from losers to winners until I decided that I wanted in on the action.

I went to the counter where the contestants signed in for the main event, which was soon to kick-off.

“And what do we have here? Bets are closed now,” the man at the counter said.

He wore a long green cap with yellow embroidering and was a handsome man with a long nose and a long jaw; in fact, everything about him tended towards the long side.

“I want to compete.” I said.

He laughed, “This is not a game lad, there’s fortunes to be lost here. Say why don’t you just watch and enjoy.”

“I said I want to compete.” I insisted.

He slit his eyes and stooped a little to stare at me “hmm…lad, they are all experts here and they care not whether you are a young one.

If you lose, they just might earn a young slave,” he said, perhaps assuming that I had no money on me.

“How much would it cost me to buy in?” I asked.

He smiled, a rather dazzling smile at me “well, well…a hundred coins” he said, “you see, it is no child’s game”

I dipped my hands and brought out the pieces for him by the twenties. His eyes narrowed even more.

“You are not really a lad, are you,” he commented as he shovelled the gold into a drawer and wrote down something.

“What is your game alias?” he asked.

“Midel,” I answered without even thinking about it.

“There you are, contestant number twenty six or Midel,” he said, handing me a tiny slip and pointed to a group of men standing and watching.

“Go join them, this session would soon be over and then it would be your turn.”

The men scrutinized me without restraint as I walked up to them.

“You miss your way?” one asked.

He did not look much older than I was, perhaps Lameer’s age. He did have a rough hardened countenance which most of the people in here possessed.

“Are you the inn’s guide?” I asked and he scowled.

“You’ve got a sharp tongue, lad,”

He had the nerve to call me lad when we could pass for age mates, just because his face looked mean.

If I had the time, I would have beaten the snot out of him to set things straight. But I ignored him however, and watched until it was our turn.

Contestant number one went and got three respectable hits out of five tries, gaining nine points; not bad. So did number two, three, and four and about all the men before me until my turn.

I went there and missed a try on purpose, thus gaining nine points too. After all, this was the easy stage, so I saw no sense in drawing any attention.

“You got lucky lad,” the one who was asking for a serious beating said to me.

At the second round, almost every one still got three respectable hits out of five except for number seven, eighteen and twenty-one, who got one bullseye and three respectable hits, automatically ranking them above everyone else… and then me.

I got no bullseye but five respectable hits out of five ranking me only three points behind the leading contestants.

Round three, the crowd cheered as ‘Pin eye’ (contestant number seven) got ready to hurl his darts. It seemed as though he’d also been holding back as he hurled his darts and got three perfect hits and two close enough ones.

His points had risen up to about fifty-five and I was now just a little bit worried; perhaps I had underestimated these contenders.

I got even more worried as ‘lightning’ (contestant number twenty) hurled his darts so swiftly and in quick succession and nailed four perfect hits and one close one. This earned him four points above pin eye. The rest of the contenders were already lagging behind and this was only round two.

Of course, I put in my all now and easily made the bullseye all the five tries. It was so intriguing to have the crowd cheer my name as my points were written down on the huge board by the counter.

I had gained sixty points now but my rivals were still too close for comfort.

Fourth round, those who had not managed to reach forty-five points were eliminated.  This left me with just four contestants.

I could notice many unfriendly and unsatisfied stares directed my way from several of the fallen contenders.

It wasn’t just them. There were factions in the crowd who were not thrilled by the thought of a lad winning that whole glittering pile of gold.

I was just a bit disappointed that the one who called me ‘lad’ was still very much in the competition with a total of fifty points. He was the one nicknamed ‘The eye’.  ‘The eye’ how stupid

This time, the rules allowed only three tries. Pin eye and lightning, did not perform so outstandingly anymore; with no perfect hit and only three close ones, granting them twenty seven extra points.

‘The eye’ wanted to outshine them this time as he tried hard and made a perfect hit but had two respectable ones granting him only twenty five points.

I thought it would be easy but as I stepped onto the platform to make my tries, a strong feeling of apprehension enveloped me and I could feel all eyes on me as the place became silent.

It was then I noticed that even those who had been sparring had come to watch the contest. Also, the fact that I only had three tries added to my unease. I could see now, why the others had done relatively poorly.

If only the tremble in my fingers would cease, I thought. But I could not waver forever. I had to take a shot. So I hurled the dart.

It flew freely and lodged itself at the end of the bullseye. One slight inch and I would have lost a perfect hit. My second and third tries were not so lucky and could only be deemed as respectable.

Overall, I gained twenty-five points too. Tempers were already beginning to flare, as it was obvious I had a very good chance at winning this contest.

“He leans too close to the target!” someone exclaimed from the crowd, which was not a wise decision as I was feeling quite nervous and I irritably turned, and without looking, hurled a dart at him.

It flew and stuck itself an inch beside his head on the wall that acted as a break between two staircases. His eyes were still wide open as he registered what had just happened.

“Tough lad eey,” Lightning said to me, and for a while, the crowd stopped muttering against me.

Lightning did not look as worried as he was only a point behind me.

Fifth round, the final round; we were allowed only a try. There was an army marching in my stomach and it was not because of hunger, rather it was panic.

I stood a chance of losing my whole pile of gold if I made any mistake and my treacherous right hand would just not stay still. It trembled like a seizure.

I had never been this nervous before and I definitely did not like the feeling.

Pin eye went and after what looked like an era, hurled his dart. It lodged itself just a few inches beside the bullseye.

However, a miss is as good as a mile and so he gained fifteen points, which was now the value of a close hit.

He walked off to stand at a corner, his face tense and I could imagine he was praying for the rest of us.

Lightning aimed, narrowing his eyes until I could swear they were lid-shut, and then hurled his dart. I almost collapsed as the missile struck the target making a perfect hit.  

My head pounded like a thunder storm and it was with an absent eye that I watched ‘The eye’ take his own aim and also hit the bullseye.

These men knew how to still their nerves. Perhaps he had a right to call me lad afterall, I thought.

I know I cannot recall myself walking off to the stage to take my aim, while the rest of the contestants screamed and jeered, hoping to demoralize me. If they knew how I felt then, they would not have bothered.

It seemed like my spine had lost its form and my right hand refused to stay still. When I saw that I could not still it, I decided to use my left.

“He intends to use his left hand!” the crowd exclaimed.

“What a cocky lad…imagine he wins,” another said.

“paaah…I doubt it. Look how he shivers, like it is freezing.”

The bullseye was right in front of me one moment, and then the next. It seemed to dance as it wavered out of focus.

“Hurl already lad! We ain’t got all day!” one shouted, but the shout could probably have been coming from a mile away as it seemed so distorted to me.

With the dart in my left hand, I stilled myself, remembering the panther’s cold vicious eyes.

I felt the panther leap at me, I felt that force (the one I believed was always watching over me,) protect me from the panther, and then I heard the crowd cheer as if from a remote place as my dart hit the bullseye making a perfect score.

There was shouting everywhere as the crowd roared ‘Midel, Midel, Midel….’

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About

I’m just Samuel, bony faced, laidback, absentminded Samuel. I don’t like to say much, I try to stay out of trouble. Some might say otherwise but that's some for you. Point is we don’t care, let’s just be chill and have fun. So come by whenever and ask me whatever.  It’s our party now and it won't start until your arrival.
 
 

 

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