Oedimus, The Stranger

Lorius Midel Ep 8

© Samuel Mogbolu

 

15/03/2017
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“You cannot?” one said “did you hear him, he said he cannot!”

And suddenly that one picked a stone and hurled it at me with all malice. I ducked fast as a whiplash so that the stone flew over my head and crashed into some clay pots behind me.

Clack ka ka, I heard the broken bits clatter. All I could think of was the fact that my head would have met the fate of the poor pot.

“You cannot what lad?!” he snarled, as he picked another stone and hurled it again. I still managed to dodge this one by spinning on my heels.

“Well if this is how you would deal with me, then I would deal the same way.” I said, trying not to betray the fact that I was quite unnerved.

“He is a light one, say,” one said.

“Yea, moves fast…won’t help him though.” the maniac said, picking up another stone. To my dismay, his cronies followed suit. I quickly dipped my hand into my knife pouch and picked four knives at once.

“The lad’s got knives, do you see,” the first man said, and as he said it, I hurled the knives at them. The blades were accurate and lodged in the thighs of four of the men.

“He hurled knives at us, the imp!” exclaimed one of them.

“Can you conceive it,” they all babbled, violently ripping the knives out of their legs while the first man gazed, quite surprised that I would put up a fight.

He wanted to lunge at me but stopped when he saw his men collapse one after the other. He just stared back and forth from his men to me with his mouth hanging open like a dimwit.

“Well do not just stand there gaping like an oaf,” I said “can you not see that your men have been poisoned? Better get them some help or they will die…and mind you, they will not last till midnight.” his eyes widened at this.

“Assassin!” he muttered and when I made to walk closer, he ran away in terror.

 I walked up to the men and quickly picked up my knives, placed them in my pouch and walked away.

As I walked, I was rather grateful for the moonlight; without it, tonight might have turned out quite differently. But I was still lost. There was a loud bell ringing through the silence of the night and I wondered what its purpose was for.

I roamed about for quite a long while and then trekked down a street and cut off at a junction until I saw what I was looking for, even though I knew not what it was at first.

An inn it was; the inn I had seen on my way before. Perhaps from here, I could retrace my way back to the market, but then I thought the better of that and decided to lodge there for the night. Tomorrow I would worry about finding my companions.

As I entered the inn, I looked around hoping to spot a familiar face. But I found none sitting at the tables so I made my way to the inn keeper.

“asallam alaikum” I greeted the keeper.

He nodded to me and continued what he was writing in his register.

“You need a room?” he asked.

“I just need to make inquiries. Say, did any merchant come here to lodge today?”

He looked me over “hmm, why do you ask?”

“Well I got separated from my procession this afternoon. I was wondering whether any of the men came here to lodge.” I said.

“No merchant came by here.” He said “but you would need to lodge fast if you are a stranger. The streets are very unsafe at night.”

“How much will a room cost me?” I asked.

“Only six coins of gold.” He said.  

So I took the room and had a nice dinner of Cosousou; a basic meal in this city- at a table situated at the corner of the common room so that I could watch the door and take note of those who came in or went out.

Later, when I was done with eating, the keeper’s daughter gave me a lamp and showed me to my room.

The room was not large, the bed was tiny, the mattress was selfishly thin, and the bed sheet smelt of stale sweat and something else.

I placed my lamp on the bedside stand and partially undressed, beating my clothes in a bid to expel some of the dust I had acquired from the journey. I finally lay down, making sure to keep my scythe within reach and my pouch of gold in my bosom, and then, although it was not easy, finally managed to fall asleep on my excuse for a bed.

I awoke quite late in the morning, about a few hours before noon. When I came out and asked the keeper for the washroom, he was not exactly in a tolerant mood.

“You paid to spend the night lad,” he said.

“I was about to come to you; see I have some people who need the room.” he continued.

Of course, he had.

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“Paying customers,” he added.

One would think I did not even pay for the night I had spent.

“So how much would it cost me to wash up and perhaps have some breakfast?” now he smiled.

“Only ten pieces lad,” he said.

“Ten pieces of what old man?” I exclaimed, almost losing it “why, that’s even more than what I spent for the miserable bed and dinner!”

“So…” he answered looking exasperated as though I was just being impossible.

“I will tell you what, say, why don’t I pay three?” I said and he chuckled.

“Well I guess that will cover the water you will use for your bath, but we still got the breakfast, you know. And come to think of it, you owe me for the extra hours you spent in my room.” I wondered how this man even had any customers at all.

So I had my bath, with a miserly bowl of water that could not possibly have satisfied me, had I meant to drink it. Then sat on the same seat of last night and had my breakfast. As I looked through the windows, it started to shower, dampening my moods at the thought of having to move around the city in such foul weather.

 As I ate, a tall, young man, probably in his mid-twenties, came and sat at my table, on the chair opposite me. He wore a long white robe with a check-patterned shawl of brown and cream draped around his shoulders. He had long silvery hair and brown eyes and was of a very striking countenance.

There was something about him, a slight hum or buzz that just kept me alert to his presence; and as I said, he was striking, with an incredibly smooth face.

I did also notice that there was a way his eyes reflected the light almost as though they glittered. A very striking man was my concrete impression.

“Hope you do not mind my intrusion?” he said smoothly and I nodded almost absently as I was still fascinated by his countenance. He seemed to notice, and chuckled.

“Well, I did notice you come in last night, say are you a foreigner” he asked.

“Yea I am.” I said, “I came with merchants.”

“Oh, you did, did you? Say, where are your companions?” he asked.

I sighed.

“I lost them in the merchant’s square.” I said and he nodded his head perhaps sympathetically.

“So how do you intend to go about finding them?” he asked, with a slight grin on his face

“Well I can retrace my way back to the market….”

He was watching me in a way that made me think he could see right into me. Quite penetrating, his gaze seemed to be and he did not appear to notice that I had paused, but just kept gazing at me. When I began to shuffle in my sit, quite confused at this nature of his, he spoke again.

“So your plan is to ask the men there, of your companion’s whereabouts,” he continued as though the conversation had been going on ever so smoothly.

I nodded studying him.

“Perhaps they have rung the bell,” he said casually.

“Bell, what bell is that?” I asked trying to understand what a bell had to do with the present topic.

“Oh, you are a foreigner, forgive me. Well, a bell is rung for missing people, when the person’s companions report it. Anyone lost, on hearing the bell, reports to the social affairs building.”

“Aha,” I exclaimed, “Perhaps that was the bell I heard last night,” I said, smiling, as this bit of information definitely made my day easier.

“Perhaps it was.” he answered, still staring at me in that disturbingly strange manner. I shook off the discomfort I felt.

“Could you direct me to this building…far be it from me to bother you, though,” I implored.

He smiled.

“No problem, I have a free day on my hands.”  He said.

I nodded gladly, and then noticed that he had not requested any meal.

“Would you not have any breakfast?” I asked, quite willing to pay as I was in a rather grateful mood.

He shook his head very slowly in a manner that made me think of an old man.

“Ah…never mind, I have already eaten” he said.

I quickly guzzled the rest of my food as he sat there, patiently watching me.

We walked out into the dusty brown street. I did not wear my turban today, but draped it around my neck, wishing I had my bag with me so that I could have a change of clothes.

He noticed my scythe.

“Nice looking weapon,” he said, “do you know how to use it?” he asked as we walked down the street. A man with a heavily laden donkey strolled in front of us.

“Well it is a blade, you slash with it” I said and had him chuckling.

“If you say so,” he said.

“Say, what is your name?” I asked realizing that I knew not his name.

“Oh, my name is Oedimus.” he said, “I have umm, Roman origins,”

“I see.” I said, looking at a donkey and an ox walk side by side, driven by two different owners. I seemed to imagine that the two beasts shared a private conversation.

“How you doing, stupid?” the ox greeted.

The donkey rolled his eyes, faced the other way, and then turned.

“And a fine day to you, brainless brute,” the donkey answered and had the ox laughing.

“Aww please, I’m not the one who is nicknamed ‘silly’. Unlike some ass I know,” the ox mooed.

“And that is coming from someone whose hide must get shined by a whip, before he can understand a little instruction,” the donkey brayed “or wait, perhaps you take the lashes as a sign of respect, brute.”

This one seemed to hit home as the ox fumed and tried to move towards the donkey. The two riders became alarmed and then, true to the donkey’s statement, the ox earned a resounding lash from his rider, and quickly composed himself, staring disconsolately at the donkey.

I laughed aloud at this musings of mine, quite forgetting myself but Oedimus smiled too and said.

“Yea, they are a funny pair are they not?”

I smiled at this statement, nodding my head in agreement and then I became startled.

“Umm, pardon me but which is a funny pair?” I asked in a state of partial alarm. He looked at me and raised his eyebrows.

“Why, the ox rider and the donkey rider,” he said “is that not what you were laughing at?”

“Ah, yes.” I muttered, wondering what he found funny about the two riders.

“So what is your name?” he asked.

“My name, my name is Miletus.”

“Miletus,” he echoed, “Are you Greek?”

“Nay,” I answered, wondering at his question. I knew that I definitely did not look Greek. I had no idea how they looked like any way.

“My father is obsessed with astrology,” I said, as though that explained everything and he nodded as though he understood perfectly.

We had walked for some distance, passing through snaky streets and alleyways until we got to a stone storey building. It had no fences or gates. We climbed up the steps and walked into a big hall, full of robed men talking to other robed men sitting behind massive oak desks that rose higher than my chest.

Oedimus held me by the hands and led me to a man sitting at a table by the corner. I remember noticing that his hands felt like the hands of a statue-so stiff and so firm.

I watched people climbing up the stairs; from any side (the hall had no walls all around. The roof was supported by towering pillars placed round the whole perimeter) while Oedimus conversed with the fat man with slits for eyes, sitting behind the desk.

“Miletus huh,” he said, scratching his luxuriant white beard. “Came with the merchants did you?”

 

I was still staring around the whole place and Oedimus had said ‘yes’ but the official continued to peep at me. I say peep because I felt that was the only way he saw people through those narrow openings he used as eyes.

“Yea I came with the merchants.” I said realizing that his question was expressly directed at me. “Lameer Alini was the leader,” I added.

He nodded contentedly and then leafed through a heap of documents, then turned to us.

“You are to meet them at the Al’ amarudeen inn.” he rapped out.

I wanted to ask him to repeat himself but Oedimus gave me a slight nudge on.

“Accept our gratitude. You have been most helpful.” Oedimus said.

The official nodded and we walked out of the hall.

“Al’ amarudeen inn,” Oedimus said, “We would have to take a carriage.”

“Oh,” I answered.

“Perhaps you could follow me back to the inn as I have some things I would like to pick up and then we would be on our way,” Oedimus said.

“Of course,” I answered

When we reached the inn, I sat at a table in the common room, eyeing the keeper, as he eyed me back. Perhaps he was planning to ask me to pay for the seat. I wished he would, as I relished the thought of having an excuse to vent my frustration at the ridiculous bills I had spent here in his rundown inn.

As I waited, the rain started to fall, at first like a little child pissing; first the little drops, then the small spurts, and then the big downpour. I placed my head dejectedly on my desk as the rain beat down heavily on the roof. Some of the water actually leaked down from the ceiling. I turned to see that the keeper was grinning at me.

“I’ve seen it rain four days nonstop, you know, it’s the season for it, and that’s It.” he said his with glittering eyes.

“My advice if you will have it, better order a room right away, because before you know it, some stranded sojourners will rush in now and take them all.” this he said with a sage like look on his face.

I was not going to fall for that, I told myself, and sat there obstinately. Oedimus later walked out.

“It seems our journey would be delayed.” he said, lifting his voice over the noise of the roaring rain as the keeper went about pulling down the shutters since, the rain had decided to come in through the windows to spend some wet quality time with us. After doing this, he went around lighting lamps because the place had become quite dark. All the while as he did this, he kept on whistling to himself, obviously in high spirits.

“Well, it is a good thing we came back or we would have been trapped in this downpour.” Oedimus said.

Agreeing to that was like chewing kola nut, so I just stared on as if I heard him not. Then the door burst open and about half a dozen people rushed in eager to book their lodgings. The keeper attended to them, all the while sending quick glances my way as he kept up his infuriating whistling (it was infuriating even though I could not hear it over the sound of the heavy rain). In fact I found so maddening that I even contemplated walking out into the heavy rain.

“You know, Miletus, I have seen it rain like this for four days nonstop. It would be wise of you to request for a room now, as more people might come in and claim them.” Oedimus said.

I just stared at him, my half barrel of patience, already empty. I wanted to roar at him, but controlled myself, in light of all the help he had given to me today. My face was probably contorted awkwardly as a result of all my boiling emotions because he gave me a puzzled look. 

“You are right, thank you,” I muttered and he nodded although he probably did not hear me.

I walked up to the keeper. He watched me coming. His head was raised high and his smile was blissful. The rat felt so triumphant. But even as I approached him, several sojourners rushed in and beat me to the desk. I had to stand in line until my turn finally came.

“You have come for a room young sir?” he asked in a rather formal tone like we were meeting for the first time and I glowered at him.

“We do have rooms here with rather miserable beds, I am afraid. I hope you do not mind,” he continued.

“Just give me a room, old man.” I spat out.

“Ah so eager huh, well that is how I like my customers,” he said, smiling like a well fed baby while I rapped my fingers irritably, on the counter.

“Well, no problem young sir, since you want a room so badly like the rest of them…” he paused to scratch his hair and yawn.

“It would cost you ten pieces,” he said watching me. I knew he wanted me to display annoyance and I was resolved to not give him that, so I dipped my hands into my pouch and gave him eleven.

“The extra one is for your feeding,” I said, “I assume you expend all your profits in running this ramshackle…no one wants to see you starve.”

He whistled happily.

“I say the one who loses money, is the fool. In this case, I am guessing you know who that is,” he said as I took my keys and walked away from the counter.

Oedimus had been watching us with rapt attention.

“You two really like each other.” he stated.

“Yea, I was even thinking of buying him a new robe.” I said. 

The rain showed no sign of relenting and as I tossed the key in my hand, I became even gloomier.

“Tell me about your city.” Oedimus said.

I raised my head from my hand and looked at him.

“My city is quite like this one. We also have a busy market, although not as busy as this certainly. Umm not too far from my father’s compound, there is a large Madrasa where we learn how to read and write in Arabic, and learn mathematics. There is a vast grey forest; now this is my favourite part of the city…”

He raised his eyebrows “why, why is this your favourite part of the city? I mean the forest.”

I stared at him. There was obviously something about this man. What had made me talk about the forest? This was something I was so guarded about, yet I felt no such reservations with him.

“Umm because it is umm quiet,” I said.

He twisted his lips up.

“Quiet,” he said, “you love quiet places?” he asked

“Yea” I answered.

“Why do you love quiet places?”

“I find them soothing,” I answered.

He grinned, a very slight movement of his mouth.

“Are you troubled?” he asked.

I frowned “why do you ask that?”

He shrugged.

“Must I be troubled to like quiet places?”

 

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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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