The Lost Prince

Lorius Midel Ep 7

© Samuel Mogbolu

 

The morning was young and lovely. The sun was yet to arrive, perhaps he made a quick stop at a friend’s place before coming to escort us desert folk on our journey.

 The men littered the precinct; some had stridden out of looking range and most of them performed their ablutions in preparation for the morning prayers.

I quickly walked to a free basin and washed myself too. After tea had had been taken, it was time to move again. The merchants saddled their camels and off we went.

 

We rode quietly today, each man lost in thought as we waded through seas of sand and juts of gloomy cactus.

At about mid-noon, amidst the benevolence of the ever-friendly sun, we finally passed the first settlement residing on this wasteland.

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Down the valley, they lived, and as we rode, I took notice of them. They tied animal skins around their waist and were very dark in complexion.

They erected wooden structures with thatch roofs for shelter and their cows peppered the valley. As we rode by, most of the settlers stopped whatever they were doing and turned to watch us pass.

Some young ones wanted to run up towards us but the mothers snatched them quickly while their men held their bows as though they were trying to pass a message across.

 My rider looked down at them and wrinkled his nose “they are nomads, probably going to the city…very persistent creatures”.

I looked on ahead and noticed that we had come upon a stretch of large rocks. Some of the rocks rose as high as a date palm tree.

Everywhere I looked, I saw the rocks. It was like a fortress of pillars.

“Haa…are we going to pass through this place?” I exclaimed.

The rider chuckled.

“Look closer,” he said.

I scanned around wondering what it was that I was to see. I did begin to notice that the merchants in front seemed to go lower and lower.

At first their heads disappeared, and then their backs until all that remained of them were the lowering camel rumps. I was fascinated.

“There is a shaft.” I said and the rider nodded.

We soon rode down the steep rocky hill into the shaft. It was a tricky slow ride and the camel stumbled regularly until we were in.

The shaft stretched over a wide expanse so that the light here was reduced thus casting shadows around the channel. Several fern-wrapped boulders demarcated the shaft into sections.

Our procession went on through meandering tracks and in between pillars. As we made our way, the wind rushed through, whistling loudly.

It gave the place a lonely aura and made me feel like we were headed to a land of no return.

“We have to be alert here” my rider said “There are beasts here, even the human type.”

  Nightfall came and yet we rode on, only previously stopping for about a few hours to bury several slaves and allow the ones who remained to rest.

Lameer did not feel too comfortable with sleeping so deep in the shaft. Thus on and on we rode until I closed my eye.

When I opened them again, I was lying on a mat and the camels knelt beside beams. I spied the dawn through an opening in the shaft.

Then I looked around and saw Traore fast asleep on another mat. Most of the men were asleep too and I got up and climbed up to the entrance to gaze.

Lameer was there. He was sitting on a rock and staring vacantly. He turned when he heard me and smiled.

“I see you have woken up,” he said.

“I do not know when I dozed off.” I answered.

He shrugged, picked up a pebble and after tossing it in his hands, flung it down the plain.

“So when are we leaving?” I asked.

“Around noon” he said picking up another pebble “The men only started sleeping a few minutes ago.”

 

I nodded and just stared on, acknowledging the cool breeze that caressed me. Lameer sniffed the air and twirled one of his locks.

“It looks like rain,” he said “perhaps only a shower, a heavy downpour would be stressful.”

I wiped my forehead with my palm and noticed it was moist. And then another drop fell on my laps.

We stared at each other and then sprang up and ran outside as the rain came down with such vengeful force. The wind bellowed like the puffs of a very annoyed giant.

We stood there, looking up to the darkened sky and the torrential rain. Darkness fell over the place almost immediately, as though someone had put out the torches.

Some of the men rose up from slumber. They took out their skin flagons into the rain to fill them up.

After a while of watching I went back into the cave and went to a mat to relax as the rain went on. I was dripping wet but if felt good.

“Perhaps we would not be going at noon!” Lameer shouted to me as he walked up to his own mat, pulled a rug over himself and went to sleep. The men that were awake quickly lit torches because the place was now too dark for sight.

I was content to gaze at the ceiling, at the sharp edged conical outgrowths that protruded towards the ground, at how the shadows fell off them, at how they reminded me of the nude females crawling out to me in my dream.

Thus my mind raced until I slept off.

 

Al’ Amarudeen Inn

After two days of non-stop heavy downpour, we were ready to set out again at noon, a day later. We travelled briskly perhaps trying to make up for lost time amidst puddles of water here and there.

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The area was not so flooded as our old friend the sun and other companions of his, always helped the desert to lose too much moisture.

It was just my luck that I happened to travel through the desert at perhaps the only time in the year when the rain would fall, if at all.

Thus was the nature of our travel for about five more days until we got to the borders of Mouboukti. I felt so eager when we came upon the imposing walls of the city.

The first thing that caught my attention was a grandiose structure with high walls. Several guards stood at the gates of this building.

There was a network of buildings and passages between the left side of the edifice and the walls of the city.

We rode through the gates of this building and entered a world of screaming traders, bargaining buyers, stalls, and noisy beasts.

This was busier than our marketplace back at home I mused as the smell of cow farts and donkey poop wafted to me in waves.

“This is the trade centre,” my rider shouted to me.

The horsemen flung their whips to scare people away and create a path for our caravan. I noticed another caravan behind us and everyone seemed to be caught up in a buzz so that the atmosphere was infectious.

One could not possibly be cool headed in this state of pandemonium.

Finally, after a rather long time for such a little distance, we rode through another gate on which there was a sign written in Arabic: Merchant’s square.

Men in white turbans sitting on mats around small buildings quickly got up and ran towards our procession. Then the merchants disembarked.

Some of the men urged the merchants to come with them and I deduced that these men acted as wholesalers. They were the persons responsible for the distribution of the merchandise to the various vendors in the market.

My rider and I came down from the camel and I stopped to look at a man who was juggling rods of fire. When I looked again, I could not see my rider or any other member of my procession.

I waded through the throng of several white robed men searching for a familiar face, but saw none.

What a moment it was for me. When you stand alone in the square of a foreign city and all the faces you see are the faces of strangers.

I just kept on walking, clueless of my destination and ignoring that familiar feeling to stop and turn back or at least endeavour not to stray too far.

As I walked on, I came to a passage and followed it, drinking in everything I saw. The passage bent to the left and I followed until I came out into a street. There was an inn on the left.

The houses here were similar to those in my city and most of the compounds were fenced around with high stone walls.

As I walked down another street, I did see more stores, one of which I walked into, on spying some attractive weapons.

I picked up a gleaming scythe. I just loved the way it looked. Perhaps my interest was because of my present financial buoyancy. Anyway, whatever it was; I wanted the scythe.

The trader, a short man with one eye infected so that his eyeball was white and ghostly with long slashes on his cheeks, smirked at me revealing his very rotten teeth.

“That’s a nine pieces blade lad,” he said in Arabic, chewing some nuts.

I gave him a scornful look as I dipped my hands into my pocket, and retrieved nine gold coins for him.

His eyes bulged when he heard the sound of the clinking coins. I could see that I had drawn some attention to myself as eyes flicked towards me.

“A rich one you are say, son of a merchant?” he asked rubbing his jaw and gritting his teeth in a rather unsavoury manner.

“Do you need such information for your trade?” I asked wondering what gave him the right to ask me such a question.

He chuckled.

“When you walk in here about now, me thought you were one of this devil’s lads dressed up to mislead me” he said placing his hands together like he was praying “my boy was ready to catch you if you pulled any funny tricks.”

I turned and looked. There at the edge of the table which was covered with plenty of knives and other materials that had shiny blades, sat a sorry looking, scrawny and two-toothed male who was taller than I was.

He appraised me with an apparent lack of cordiality. All his other teeth seemed to have vacated their residence at the request of an angry fist.

I wondered how this creature could possibly help his master if the need ever arose.

“Oh.” was all I could think of saying.

The atmosphere of the place for some reason, made me feel a bit uneasy so I decided to leave except that the trader had other plans for this rich customer; for he quickly intercepted me as I was about to leave

“Uh…” he chuckled “we have a lot of things that would interest you, young lord,” his fingers shaking in a slow manner that made me think of worms.

I made to decline but he persisted, walking quickly to a drawer to bring a black bangle for me

“This amulet would help you to always find your path,” he said “it has saved many a lost traveller…once used by a mighty prince, yes, a mighty prince, I tell you.”

Like I would ever spend my money on something so bogus.

“And how much is this powerful pathfinder?” I asked.

“Haha…just emm, you know, not much…say about twelve coins of gold,” he pressed his fingers together and squeezed his face to emphasize how tiny twelve coins of gold was.

“Hmm a worthy price for something so useful.” I said and he nodded eagerly.

“Seee, why yes…yes you are right,” he said nodding even harder but I was not interested.

“But I think I have no problems with my direction and I need no help finding my way.”

He wanted to protest or insist but I raised my hands to stop him.

“Thank you for your kind offer but my people await me and I must needs be on my way.”

All the while we were talking, I had placed my hand directly in contact with my pouch of gold lest it suddenly desert me by some unexplainable or unforeseen circumstance.

He watched me with disappointment in his eyes as I walked out of his stall.

 I now remembered that I was lost and turned back to retrace my steps. The city folk strolled past me.

Most of them were lost in thought after the pursuit for daily bread. Seeing everyone like this under the setting sun made me rather nostalgic. And I made haste as much as I could perhaps because I did not want to lose their company.

I cannot say that I felt worried or frightened, for I felt my money could solve any problem bound to arise. And at that young age, I had not yet come to terms with the idea of my mortality as most adults had.

I found it hard to be scared of being lost in a foreign city, which I knew nothing about.

 In addition, I must add that from a very tender age I had nursed the belief that there was an unseen force solely responsible for my safety. This innate belief had made me rather reckless with life.

I was one of the few children that wondered into the forest late at night to fantasize or fall asleep at the top of a very tall tree.

So I wasn’t bothered.  I walked down a pathway (still trying to retrace my steps) but quickly decided that it was the wrong one because unlike the previous one, it had two passages cutting off from it.

What was I to do?

Then I noticed four men walking behind me; a very normal occurrence you might say, except that I remembered seeing two of them in the store I bought my scythe.

I felt suspicious and on impulse I followed one passage. The fellows followed me. I quickened my steps and could hear their footsteps quicken in rhythm.

Luckily, the passage led into a throng of people and I quickly got myself mixed in the crowd, moving swiftly until i slipped into another narrow street.

When I looked behind me, I could spy none of them and so I walked on. My mind roamed far and wide so that I failed to take notice of my surroundings.

When i looked around again, I was in despair as I realized that I was truly lost now. I had no clue and knew not whether to go left or right.

There was a shepherd coming with a herd of cattle and I rushed to the street side to give way for his cattle procession.  And then having no other plan in mind, I decided to tail the shepherd and see if he would lead me to some more familiar portion of the city.

I felt a bit doubtful now. Suppose those men were not even interested in me.

Perhaps I had gotten myself lost because of my overactive mind or because of the weight of the money in my pocket. Carrying a lot of money truly had its own problems and I began to understand the strain that Lameer must have gone through all these days.

So lost in thought I was, when I walked into a man who was standing right in front of me.

The day had reached that time when one just barely sees or makes out objects and I could only make out that he was a man. His features were not so visible.

I did note that the shepherd and his cows had left me behind.

“My apologies, I did not see you,” I said.

The fellow folded his arms.

“Perhaps I am a spirit. That is why you did not notice me,” he said.

His voice was a raspy drone.

I sighed “I am really sorry…it’s just that I was preoccupied and I am in a hurry right now so…”

“In a hurry huh? Where do you hurry to, young lad?” he stretched his arms “perhaps you will like to chat with me and my pals for a while,” he said and I noticed about four shadowy figures encircle me.

“How nice of you,” I said “and I would love to chat with you fellows but I really must be on my way.”

 Of course, I was not stupid and knew that these men had no good intentions towards me. Nevertheless, I was not frightened, because like I said, I was still a rather sheltered lad.

“Quit talking boy, do you have anything you would like to share with us pals?” one of the men said from behind me.

“But how am I supposed to tell you if I have something to share with you when you asked me to stop talking?”  I asked.

They laughed.

“Hmm are you trying to be funny young lad? I don’t really like funny lads, see,” said the man I had bumped into.

“Well I am sorry,” I said “I am ignorant of your likes and dislikes seeing as I just met you folks,”

They laughed again.

“Lookee here lad, sometime ago, some woman passed here too, clueless like you she was. I bet that those who care for her are still looking about,” he said as he turned to his cronies, all of them laughing, “Yea she was a real fine woman, put up a fight too,”

“That’s why no one passes this place at this time, you know, cos it is dangerous,” said another, as the men walked closer to me.

“Wow,” I said, stepping further backwards “well umm, now that I know that this place is dangerous, I shall endeavour not to pass here next time around.”

“Lookee here lad, enough, give us what you got in your pockiits.” the man I walked into bellowed. His voice was deeper now, perhaps in a bid to show that he was serious.

Luckily for me, the night turned out to be a moonlit night and although the moon was yet full, I could make out their profiles clearly.

“But how can I give you what is in my pocket?” I asked, “Are you good men trying to steal from me?”

Their previous laughter paled in comparison to this bout. They bent over holding their bellies and wailed with laughter.

Some even fell on their bottoms rocking fitfully. Only the man I had walked into stood chuckling as he watched me.

“I like you lad, you’ve got guts.” he said slipping out a knife “but you see, we are in a hurry too and we know you came with merchants, so give us what you got in your pockiits.”

On seeing the knife, I got serious too, knowing that these men could probably smile at me while slitting my throat.

“I am sorry to be so stubborn,” I said “but I cannot give you what I have in my pockiits,” I said mimicking him.

I could tell that their stares had hardened; that they were not amused anymore.

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.
 
 

 

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