The Knife

Lorius Midel Ep 1

Soudan- circa 1700- AD

©Samuel Mogbolu

 

I am light complexioned with dark curly hair, full lips and very brown eyes and this made me stand out as people around were more prone to possess a darker skin tone.

At seven, my face was round and I was shorter than my age mates. I always was a daydreamer; in my mind, I had travelled round the world.

I was anything I desired; from being ludicrously wealthy like the merchants that visited our province, to becoming famous like my father. Whatever I desired, my wonderful mind constructed.

 Sometimes, I travelled so far my mother would yell out.

“Get up from that couch Miletus and go and find something useful to do.”

I would reply, “I have nothing to do mother, I am done with all my errands.”

“Then go get your scripts or something and quit lying there staring at the roof like you lack ambition.”

Being of an innately stubborn temperament, I sometimes contemplated ignoring her, but one look at those eyes, and such thoughts would sneak back the same way they came.

“Yes mother,” I would say.

I always wondered why she bothered me so. One day when I questioned her, she said

“You can always achieve things in your imagination but it is in reality you get your accolades.”

I felt she was just being herself, my mother.

My family was a large one; four brothers and two sisters; my sisters being the youngest. My father was a very famous doctor, known by rulers and powers all around from across the Niger even up to Egypt.

He was obsessed with astrology, which was probably how he came up with my name, as I am sure it was one of the strangest names in the province- while my mother was inclined to craftwork and was quite successful.

Overall, I was from a superior family and expected to do well.

 My city Kalahash, was situated on the southern end of the empire. A city quite vast and close to the Niger, peppered with hills, and sustained grey looking forests.

The brown soil was fertile and the people obtained their daily bread through farming, fishing, mining, with a few choice professions like woodcarving, medicine, astrology, hunting and the art of painting.

It was around that time when the Moors faced deposition from power so the province like most of the empire, contained a diverse clutter of peoples as the Tuaregs, the Fulanis and some other groups, still clustered together under a dying umbrella.

Some were Islamic and some were Animists.

Apart from all the other mosques, a huge mosque stood at the centre of the province close to the market square and we all could hear the voice of the muezzin at dawn, calling faithfuls to observe their morning prayers.

I cannot exactly say what religion my family believed in because they were not so inclined. Although, my father originated from an Islamic background; he had once claimed that he was friends with the true God.

But then my father said many strange things.

The fashion also, was diverse, as there were those that dressed in flowing white robes with a small cap or turban.

The women that would cover themselves from head to toe, then those that wore no tops but tied wrappers around their waists and marked their bodies with artful symbols representing their tribes.

Then there was the group I liked; these wore black robes with fitting trousers and black turbans. They carried long swords and I remember they belonged to the Tuareg group.

And of course, the priests as we were a very superstitious people too and believed that gods and sprits resided in the rivers and special hills which were responsible for fertility, protection from invaders amongst other things.

I, personally, was not superstitious by nature and did secretly scorn the priests and their so-called gods.

The market square was vast and ever busy, with merchants who had travelled across the Sahara coming to display their wares.

There was the slave section where traders chained slaves together, neck-to-neck for prospective buyers to examine.

The execution square shared the same neighbourhood and crowds had gathered several times to watch many heads fall off at the executioner’s blade.

Everyone could speak Arabic, as it was the main language although there were other popular languages like Bambara and Fulfulde.

My family could speak the Arabic and Fulani (Fulfulde) languages fluently and I was part Moorish (my father) and part Peul.

 “Now the art of woodcarving had always fascinated me so on the day of the third new moon, when my father asked me to accompany him to Namibie’s place to pick up some wooden stools he had purchased earlier, I eagerly agreed.

Namibie was a renowned wood carver and had carved the drums used at the ram festival, which the city held every ten moons.

I held the drums in higher esteem than the festival itself. When activities of the festival were in progress, I was prone to wander off to some quiet place where I could indulge in my daydreams.

One time, I wandered so deep into the forest and lost track of time. I even fell asleep on a baobab tree.

Meanwhile, my whole family had worked themselves into a state of anxiety; as it was almost midnight and Miletus was nowhere to be found.

How baffled I was when I arrived the next morning to find my mother sporting a full-blown rage and my father would not even look at me.

I tried to relay the fact to them that I never really was in any danger but they would hear nothing of it.

Now back to the subject. Forgive me, if I tend to move too far away from the topic at hand.

You see, it is a long story and as I talk, I tend to remember events and feelings, which the passing time has buried.

But I would try to give you every portion of the story…it is important that you see my perspective of things.”

Although the prince had never visited earth, he could yet understand the concepts the voice tried to portray; his Zanite heritage allowed him glean the mind to uncover the obscure.

“Yea so I followed my father to the wood carver’s workshop,” the voice continued. “It was to me like walking into one of the best fantasies ever.

Almost as good as the first time I visited Lisbon about seventy years later. I must have had a funny look because my father appraised me with a faint smile.

Namibie spotted us from afar, his bright countenance showed how well our presence thrilled him. It was not every day a personality like my father visited his shop.

I remember Namibie as a man who some unknown thing perpetually puzzled because his brows were always creased in a thoughtful way.

He ushered us in and gave us a glistening and rather ornate bench to sit on.

The craft of the bench fascinated me and I went on to study rather too painstakingly the shape of the legs of the bench, the intricate designs on the sides….then I noticed the curious looks my father and Namibie sent my way.

Father takes you out with him and you pull this off…very shrewd Miletus. I mused, giving myself a mental scolding.

They both turned away, however, and went on with their conversation. I sat still and tried to focus on their discussion…no point. My restless roaming eyes had caught on a carved lion.

I thought it was sublime, the way the wood carver caught the snob expression only a lion could portray.

I found it so impressive that I rose up from my bench and walked up to it to study it a bit more closely. Perhaps to see whether the carver had caught details only someone like me would bother to look for. From such close scrutiny, I deduced that this work was a masterpiece.

“I would love to purchase this lion if it’s up for sale.” I announced on impulse.

“Why yes of course. Take it as a gift.” Namibie gushed.

This was one of the main reasons I enjoyed going out with my father. You see, because he was popular, people tended to fawn around him. As a devout opportunist, I made sure I enjoyed the benefits of their near obsequious behaviour to the fullest.

We had spent a considerable amount of time there as the sun had begun to rise directly overhead, showing that it was nearly noon.

My father rose to his full ‘palm-tree’ height. I had always found this height intimidating and admired the beard he sported.

It gave him a sort of aristocratic look, although, I did not know it at the time. I just knew that I liked the beard.

Unlike me, he was not light complexioned but had a rather bronze coloured skin; my complexion I inherited from my mother.  

He said a few more things to Namibie but I was too enthralled with my lion to pay any attention.

I remember the wood carver straightening up as if he was trying to look taller. The notion amused me and increased my admiration of my father.

The carver ordered his apprentice to bring some donkeys to send the stools to our home.

My father and I, then headed for the weapon’s store to purchase a bow for my brother Traore, who had been nagging throughout the week that he wanted a cross bow.

Traore felt that he had outgrown catapults and mere bows and wanted the real thing. Hear him talk and you will never believe he was just five years of age. I was seven at the time, being only two years older.

At the weapons store, the fawning was less obvious as the hunters were the ones who sold weapons and considered themselves equal in rank to physicians.

Nevertheless, my father received a warm welcome as he was popular and was a friend of Alini the shopkeeper.

Alini was a renowned hunter and was one of the best weapon makers in the province; he also possessed immense wealth, as he was a merchant.

He was a tall man with a strong bony face. His most striking feature was his hair, which he braided into dreadlocks that, coupled with his bony face, made him look dangerous.

“What brings the Saif to my humble store?” Alini asked.

“We would have a crossbow, newly fashioned and of durable quality.” My father replied.

“Well you have come to the right place.” Alini had said in a somewhat dramatic fashion “as everything sold here is of superior quality.”

“Take a look at this one,” he said pointing to a new crossbow hanging on a wooden rack.

I was not a good judge of weapons but it was obvious that this was a superior bow judging by the material of the strings.

It was also attractive too. Seeing it made me regret not asking for a bow myself but then the hunter turned to me and said

“Physician’s heir, please accept this gift from Me.” in the same teasing manner he used to address my father.

It was a beautiful pocketknife although the blade was longer than a foot long. The handle was brown in colour and had the figure of an angel embellished on it.

I remember smiling at the irony of having a holy being engraved on something so obviously lethal.

"I thank you for such a gracious gift," I said in the same teasing manner he had adopted when he gave me the knife.

He smiled and turned to my father.

“What an interesting young one you have here.”

We came home at mid noon to find Traore, my angelic of a brother, sitting on the veranda of the main building, eagerly anticipating his crossbow.

Believe me when I say that my description of him is rather accurate. Even though we had a strong resemblance, it was by a stroke of luck that he was not an albino, for his curly hair was very light brown and when my face was yet round, his; was slim and long.

But altogether, his bright skin tone and golden hair made a rather appealing combination.

 

Now in those days, the heavens would have crashed first before I would describe my brother with such glowing attributes and perhaps I only remember him so fondly because it is a long time ago, centuries in fact.

Now as soon as he sighted us, he sprang up from the bench and dashed towards us.

“Let me go meet mama.” I said, making a swift escape.

Mama was outside, at the back of the building, where the kitchen was, and the then last born Yo`u, tormented her in all his infantile fury.

She saw me come in and beamed a smile at me. But I was no fool. It would take more than a smile to charm me into pacifying Yo`u.

The little imp refused the attention of my mother’s handmaidens. Ultimately, I had to oblige her.

I picked up Yo`u who did immediately burst out in loud shrieks and wails until I shoved some pieces of nuts in his mouth, keeping him quiet for a while.

After playing with him, a very difficult task, as his idea of fun was quite different from mine, I left for my room.

I sat on my bed and admired my knife, quite beautiful it was. I wondered if the blade would always gleam with such radiance.

On impulse, I went to the corner of the room and with the aid of a metal thong, heated a spiral-shaped metal (one of my mother’s old hairpins) and pressed it on the handle of my knife.

The knife was marked- it was now mine.

Traore jumped into my room; of course to gloat and show off his latest piece of weaponry as if I was not there when it was purchased.

I could not resist the urge to tease him.

“Takes skill to use a crossbow you know,” I said.

He seemed almost stunned by my statement. You see, Traore was a prodigy and excelled at anything he gave his heart to.

He rarely missed a target within a thousand yards! A record not many adults could boast of and here I was talking about skill.

He resumed his gloating forgiving me for my slip. But I was battling a mood swing and could not abide his company.

I needed to be alone. Of course, this was not an easy task and it involved fierce scuffles peppered with enough insults.

I did not fail to notice his rapid maturation; I also did not fail to feel threatened by it.

I imagined a life where Traore could easily overpower me and such juvenile thoughts made the scuffle more vigorous.

Once his back hit the floor, he surrendered and sauntered out of the room with a triumphant smirk.

It was obvious he had noticed the amount of effort I had put into this fight and of course he was pleased with himself; since in his reasoning, this meant that he would soon be equal to me in strength or even become stronger.

I went to bed with a heavy heart and for the next few days I was in the doldrums and just kept on brooding. I started to notice that my brother fared better than I; at, well, virtually everything.

He enjoyed rapid growth and people including my parents saw him as the stronger one or as they delicately put it:

“Traore is the more volatile of the two, Miletus is the delicate type.”

Hell, why could they not just come out and say it: ‘Miletus is introverted and soft hearted while Traore has a warrior’s personality’.

“Miletus” my mother said one day “what consumes your thoughts these days?”

“Mother,” I answered, “It is a normal thing to find me wrapped in imagination. Why does it bother you now?”

“Yes I know you like to dream, but you look happy when doing so,” she said “these days your countenance is cloudy as though a storm brews in your heart,” she waited a bit and then asked.

“So what is the matter?”

“Nothing is wrong mother,” I answered.

“Am I now a liar?” she asked. The volume of her voice actually rose as she adjusted her headscarf.

You see my mother had a volatile temper. Therefore after a little fidgeting I decided to just tell her and save myself the irksomeness.

Now the problem was, I did not know where to start- saying it aloud just made it seem puerile so I tried to make light of it.

“Mother, forget about it; it is but one of these moods…it is nothing important.”

“It has caused you to brood my son. You have given it enough importance. Now by the heavens, spit it out!”

“Since you persist on this mother,” I said, wishing she would just let me be.

“The thing is…I feel weak.”

“You feel weak?” she echoed.

“Yes mother, I feel very weak and umm…not good enough. Everyone else is better than I am at everything and I cannot find something that I am good at” I said and sighed shyly.

Her grey eyes were penetrating me and I could feel some steam coming out from my ears. Her long silence did not help either, as my sense of mortification began to mount. Perhaps I should not have said so much.

Then she spoke

“I cannot believe this nonsense.”

I did not lift up my head. She placed a hand on my back.

“You are a very shrewd young man; you easily grasp ideas and understand things when you are taught. You have a good memory; in fact you rarely forget anything,” she said, placing a hand on my shoulder.

“It is Traore is it not? You feel inadequate just because he is good at the bow, huh? Is that not so?” she asked.

“Not just the bow, mother…everything…he is good at everything.”

She looked at me and smiled.

“Yea Traore is a prodigy and seems to be excellent at everything. But nothing is constant you know, besides people are fickle minded.

You may do something in the future that will make you popular and adored and then some other person may find himself in this same mood you find yourself right now.

Imagine someone in the future complaining and saying ‘Miletus is so lucky, he has everything going for him ah! His life is so rosy, I envy him’.

He would have no idea of the fact that you once spent days brooding and pitying yourself.”

So what she said made some sense to me and then she continued.

“You do not even realize it Miletus, but Traore looks up to you and he has his own fears and doubts about himself because no one is perfect.

You should look for what you are good at, mind you, I am sure there is a lot of stuff suitable for you, and you should work hard at it, so as to gain mastery of it.

I do not ever want to see you go through an episode of self-pity again because the best person you can be is you.”

Having said that, she patted me on the back and left the room.

1/1

 

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.