Each week I'm going to post a part of each chapter sequentially. All you have to do is read and let me know if you enjoyed it by leaving a comment. The more comments I receive, the more likely I'll post the next part sooner rather than later.
It is unedited, so pardon any errors.
I'm hoping to receive the cover art soon but in the meantime here's the blurb. This story explores some African myths and legends but is purely fictional and a product of my imagination.
Ugo’ji is an outcast, an untouchable. She lives on the fringe of society as the lowest of the low, a living sacrifice to the gods. The only person she interacts with is her aged grandmother Nne who nurtures her powerful gift of healing. Until the day she meets Ebube a strange warrior to their lands who ignites a yearning within her she's unable to ignore.
Ebube is drawn to the young maiden with the emerald green eyes who possesses the body of a goddess and the healing touch of an angel. But he is forbidden from mating with a human and the consequence is the wrath of the gods.
Moreover he is on a mission. If he fails, the gates of hell will be opened and the earth plunged into darkness. He cannot stay and she cannot go with him. So why bother?
Help me...Do whatever it takes...Keep the gates of Alammuo sealed.
Darkness tugged at him, threatening to pull him into its murky depths. With a jerk Ebube sat up on his pallet, the wood creaking with the shift of his weight. The pounding of his heart echoed in his ultra-sensitive ears, sweat streaked down his body in rivulets.
On reflex, he extended his arm, grabbing the scabbard with his machete he always kept within reach. The nightmare he’d just had left him with a sense of danger in the air. Yet he couldn’t remember his dream.
His beast came to the fore, clawing to take over, an instinctive response to potential threats. Clenching his palms, he fought the shift, his eyesight adjusting to the pitch shadow. As a leopard-shifter, his vision was excellent, night and day.
Quickly, his gaze swept across large airy chamber. His mud-plastered hut was sparsely decorated. Hardly unexpected as he'd not taken a mate yet.
Apart from the raised bamboo sleeping platform covered in padded deer hide and the wooden trunk that stored his personal belongings, the only other things were his tools of warfare – his spears, shields, machetes and scabbards. They were all sharpened and polished, ready for use. They were also still where he’d left them hanging on the single rung shelf against the burnt umber colored wall.
His spinal column tingled the way it always did when he sensed something out of place. Something terribly wrong. He swung his legs around. Cool unglazed clay flooring met his bare feet. The muscles on his back tensed, primed for action. Slowly, he stood to his full height and walked through the room.
His hut consisted of two chambers, one for sleeping and the other for entertaining guests. Though as a guardian, a special warrior of the gods, he could live as luxuriously as the gods did, they had agreed communally to live as simply as humans of the era so as not to draw attention to themselves as supernatural beings.
In truth, all the Ure Guardians were part-human part-god, the seeds of the liaisons between gods and humans when the deities lived on earth, before the separation of realms. So while they all had some powers of gods, they were limited by the susceptibilities of humans. And their bodies' mortality.
Nothing was out of place in his rooms, no stray malevolent being in the vicinity. Yet the tingling in his bones didn't dissipate. When he found nothing inside, he opened the door and walked into the clearing in front of his hut. It was still dark outside. The dark grey of the far eastern horizon indicated dawn was approaching.
Tilting his head back, he sniffed the air. The scent of morning dew—cut grass, upturned earth and ripe fruits—drifted in the light breeze.
Four huts huddled in a semi-circle with the clearing in the middle. Tall palm and coconut trees lined the back of the houses. He traversed the back of the structures starting with his father’s at the edge of the half-moon.
At the last hut, he stopped. Nothing lurked inside it, living or inanimate. Yet the memory of the previous occupant flooded his mind, hitting him low in the abdomen, spreading pain through his body. Gritting his teeth, he shook his head and turned his back to the building and its unwelcome memories.
The prickling sensation increased. Around him nothing stirred for a moment. Not a leaf in the trees or grass on the earth. It was such a tomblike stillness, cold shivers travelled down his spine.
Strange. It was as if death had paid someone a visit. Yet that was not possible. Not without preparation. Whilst Guardians were mortal, it was not easy to kill one. Only a god could claim the life of a guardian or grant a demi-god the power to take one through a special ritual.
Deciding to investigate, Ebube strolled through the village. It was a settlement of guardians, gatekeepers of the earth and spirit realm. No crime ever happened here. Yet recently there had been a spate of strange events. Nothing major at first; unruly children fighting, things going missing, someone getting stabbed accidentally.
Ikenga, their leader, had seen all the events as an omen of something bad on the way. He’d instructed everyone to become extra vigilant, to be on the alert for more strange happenings. He’d also ordered extra patrols at night.
Other warriors patrolled the night. Ebube didn’t have to. Still, he wouldn’t be able to sleep again if he went back inside. He had to check out his suspicion in case something had gone wrong.
A single widened pathway ran through the centre of the village, joining the smaller footpaths leading to mud thatch residences. His ability to perceive auras indicated their occupants slept peacefully.
The branches and leaves of the trees swayed in the pre-dawn breeze. He smelt rain in the air. It was getting closer and would pour down by dawn.
At the village square he met Onorue, a fellow warrior and chief sentinel, walking towards him from the opposite end.
"Ututu oma," they greeted each other.
"I didn’t realize you were also on patrol this morning," Onorue said as they grasped each other’s arm in greeting. He was only slightly shorter than Ebube. They had grown up and trained together. While Ebube was known for his speed and agility in battle, Onorue was known for his strength and ferocity.
They were the best of friends. The closest person to a brother Ebube had at the moment given that his own blood brother had turned rogue. Ebube clenched and unclenched his hands as hot fury sliced through him. No. Onorue was his only brother. He no longer had a blood brother. Taking a deep breath, Ebube swallowed the growl bubbling in his belly and calmed his body before he spoke.
"My friend, I had an uneasy night and woke up sensing danger. I decided to check. Have you seen anything strange tonight?"
Ebube was glad his voice was even, hiding the troubling thoughts in his mind. Though he knew if his friend probed him, he wouldn’t be able to hide the truth from him.
"I haven’t seen anything. It seems we are all on the alert tonight. I’ve sensed the same thing. Even Ikenga came out for a stroll before settling back in his hut."
"Hmmm. In which case we must be on guard. I’ll join you in the patrol and hopefully it’s nothing to worry about."
Ebube turned and walked the perimeter with Onorue, his eyes searching the darkness for anything out of place, his senses honed to pick up the slightest displacement in the atmosphere.
"In the morning, we shall go and see Ikenga. I sense something big is about to happen. We will need to take precautions to protect the children and elderly."
"Yes, I definitely agree. We need to prepare for whatever lies ahead." Onorue nodded.
They both continued the patrol but spotted nothing extraordinary. Yet the feeling of something dark in their midst persisted till dawn. The rain started and Ebube returned to his hut. He washed and dressed. When he came out, he was greeted by his sister Oma. As the guardian of light, she was delicate, graceful and radiated positivity. Yet this morning her usual glow was dimmed, a frown creasing her ethereal face.
His body tensed with concern. Their family still hadn’t fully recovered from losing a sibling, though they’d accepted it as fate. It made him more overprotective about his sister.
"What worries you this early morning, Oma?" he asked after she’d greeted him.
Oma shook her head. "I didn’t sleep well last night. I had a strange dream that I can’t seem to interpret and I seem to have woken up feeling depressed this morning. I just don’t understand it. I sense a blanket of pervasive dark clouds coming over Amauwa."
Her words set alarm bells off within his mind. It was one thing for him to sense that something was wrong. He was a warrior, his specialty intelligence gathering. So he was naturally sensitive and suspicious. But when his Oma sensed similar things, then it was no longer just a hunch. It was reality. Something bad had already happened. It would soon become obvious.
To be continued...
Copyright Kiru Taye 2013