They quickly turned to gaze at the newcomer, to find out it was the Baloguns female apprentice ”Lara ” the woman who has a lot of complicated arguments, meant to make Ades life miserable.

”Iba-Ogun Lara, ” Baba Lakan greeted with a smile as Ade groaned in disappointment ”ever since the Balogun named you his successor, you have been acting like a male warrior ” he continued

”To be a Balogun one must be as brave and as daring as a man ” she replied, gloatingly ”so my actions are quite natural ”

”At least respect the fact that we are men and you are a woman ” Baba Lakan said

”No, ” she countered, and then dismissed Baba Lakan formally to face Ade ”so have you considered my offer? ”

Ade smiled at the irony. She was asking him to make her his second wife a concept that sounds completely impossible. Ade wondered who had been filling her head with such foolish ideas. What would he tell Bisi his wife, the thought of it still brought shivers down his spine?

”Ogunlara this is my reply to your proposal ” Ade responded ”only a fool would take you for a wife, such a fool would live in constant fear of his domestic household. You would be the husband and he the wife, I don want to be that fool ”

”Ade! ” Baba Lakan interrupted, ”why are you rejecting Ogunlara. Just look at her, she is the physical representation of pure beauty; she has everything a man wants in a woman. If I were you, I would marry her ”

”If you were me ” Ade snapped, ”you would run fast without looking back ”

”Adeeee!! ” Ogunlara voiced, playfully ”I am a woman, just like any other woman, our bodies respond to the touch of a man in the same manner and… ”

”Wait, ” Baba Lakan said, cutting off Ogunlaras speech of seduction ”was it not just now that you said you had the pride of a man, now you are saying that you are a woman. Pick one are you a man or are you a woman? ”ma lakan pect the fact that we are men and you are a woman

Baba Lakan and Ogunlara had a deep respect for each other they had a strong friendship since childhood, but sometimes his sarcastic remarks get under her skin and the last one is no exemption. She was about to respond in anger when Ade added another remark of his own.

”Tell me Lara ” Ade said, with a sly smile, ”Why are you running after another womans husband, is it because you are unable to find one for yourself ”

The emotional response in Ogunlaras face was unnerving, several angry veins perturbed on her temple and Ade could tell that it took all of her willpower to keep her voice in an even tone.

”Adebisi is the lucky one, I loved you Ade, but I was not fast enough. Adebisi… ” she replied stressing the last word with a tone of jealousy ”she was always soft, a woman with her mind, never listening to what others say about anyone ”

”And you? ” Ade inquired

”I was a fool to listen to the gossips and the lies fabricated by others concerning you, which was why I kept my distance, ” she replied with a tone of regret ”Adebisi won the prize and as for me, I can only beg to be your second wife ”

”I almost cried ” Baba Lakan mocked ”that story almost won my heart, except, if I remembered clearly; you were the one who instigated that rumour ”

All of a sudden Lara started to fidget, and from the way her eyebrows furrowed, Ade could tell that she was rummaging through her witty mind for the next thing to say to achieve her goals. He needed a way to outwit her before she decides to pull the ”love me or I die ” routine

”Why don you go and marry Ori-Alara the chief of the Alaramide tribe, I heard that he was very gentle with his last wife ”

The reaction that Lara gave Ade wasn the one that he had expected. He could tell that the volcanic nature of Ogunlaras rage had reached its boiling point, Lara had a strong grudge against Ori-Alara, and Ade had foolishly mentioned the name at an inappropriate time. As Ogunlara opened her mouth to shout the Baloguns keen high-pitched voice penetrated the entire village demanding the attention of his Iwofia (apprentice). With practised obedience, Ogunlara stiffened and then responded with a high pitched voice ”Oooo Aba ” (yes elder)

”Ogunlara! I want you in my presence now! ” The Balogun shouted, Ogunlara froze at that same instant then showed signs of worry on her face like she had done something wrong and then Ogunlara ran off to answer the Baloguns call. Ade and Babalakan gave a sigh of relief and then rushed off before she could return to make another one of her absurd demands, it was then that Babalakan chose to make a comment

”Is it a crime to be handsome? ” they both laughed


Ogunlara rushed towards her teacher and Mentor to see why he had summoned her. The Balogun sat down in his large hut patiently putting things in order, he had 5 long benches arranged neatly with several gourd shells on the table filled with palm wine. It was as though he was expecting some guests.

”You were trying to win his heart again ” the Balogun scolded ”why! Especially when you know that he is already married ”

”Because… ” Lara began, but then thought better of it and held her tongue

”Is it because he supported you and also encouraged the whole village to pronounce you the Balogun as soon as my time is done? ”

”And because he has a good heart… ” Ogunlara promptly added

”And that is why Adebisi is wiser than you ” the Balogun shot, ”because she knows Ade as a man of many secrets and once you know just one of those secrets, you would fear him rather than love him ”

”But… ” Ogunlara protested

”You are young and in your youth, you show foolishness. To succeed as the next Balogun, you must understand the world that we live in hides many mysteries, some of these mysteries are as sweet as honey others are equal to the venom of a snake ”

”Im ready to learn, ” Ogunlara said in a determined voice, trying to prove to her master that he was not wrong in his decision to make her his successor. For some reason, she could sense the independent level of his understanding, and the mockery hidden in his eyes told her that his comprehension of the situation vastly overshadowed her own. It was as though he knew the results of her actions and simply decided to overlook her childish behaviour.

”There are powers out there, powers above and beneath the soil, as the ants live in the soil and birds in the trees, such is the depth of his mystery. Ogunlara, you are not ready. ”

”Such powers will not escape me, I am strong, ” she voiced with determination

”Ogunlara! ” The Balogun thought, a girl who has been in his service for the past 6 years. Since then she had learned a lot of forbidden chants and incantations. Within a short period, she had exceeded all his expectations, developing chants that even he described as unimaginable. Her development was so outstanding that he feared she would be corrupted by the overwhelming scope of her talent. A fear put to rest because of her feminine weaknesses.

Her overwhelming strength had made her bold and extremely overconfident, the Balogun had hoped to humble her or to teach her the concept of modesty and humility to prevent her from being too ambitious. The Balogun smiled, she might have her flaws, but she more than makes up for it with her hard work.

”What about them? ” He asked sarcastically, pointing towards the benches that Ogunlara had assumed was otherwise unoccupied. To her shock the 5 benches now hosted several occupants, black humanoid forms helping themselves to the palm wine the Balogun had left for the occasion. The moment Ogunlara realized how vulnerable she had become with her back exposed to the enemy attack; she immediately took action reflexively turning around to attack the black demons before they had the chance to kill her first.

”Don ” the Balogun commanded, sensing that his appearance was about to do something irrational. Ogunlara who had turned a deaf ear to the instructions of her master got set to attack, bracing herself to use one of the forbidden chants in her arsenal. The Balogun was too slow in his reaction and found it difficult to stop his pupil from making a drastic mistake. She had begun to chant and from the look in her eyes, he could tell that she had every intention of slaying the strangers in his humble hut without a second thought.

”LARA! ” He shouted

In an instant 4 king-sized Astral forms in the shape of bird claws appeared from thin air, the claws grabbed a hold of her legs and her hands penetrated her tender skin drawing blood. Lara gave an audible groan in reaction to the pain but refused to scream and gazed at her captors defiantly.

”Is this the way you welcome a guest? ” One of the beings inquired.

”Please forgive her, she is young and in her youth makes foolish decisions, she is pruned to making errors, ọmọde n ṣe (Just a child) ” the Balogun pleaded

”Is this your so-called Otun-Balogun the one who is next in line to your office? ” The mysterious being asked mockingly

”She has the power ” the Balogun replied, ”what she lacks is the wisdom to apply it, with her overwhelming strength, there will be overwhelming overconfidence ”

”Humph ” the being signed in reply, then released Ogunlara with a casual wave

To her humiliation Ogunlara fell flat on her face the moment the strangers released her, she felt a slight tang of nausea and a slight ache in every joint of her body. She immediately started healing herself, whispering the healing chant beneath her breath while hiding her face from the intruders as she had earlier assumed. It is a basic Ilu-ino combat principle that all females are to master the healing chant before they can be sent to the field. The policy ended several seasons ago when a male showed unique talents in his method of healing.

”Our presence here is not to exchange pleasantries, but to receive an answer ” another one of the black beings voiced ”have you considered our proposal? ” From all indications this new voice had far more authority than the previous one Ogunlara observed: ”well Balogun of Ilu-ino, speak! ”

The Balogun was silent for a while, Ogunlara realised that her mentor had deliberately waited and delayed the answer to consider its benefits and its consequences. She could tell from the look in his eyes that the decision had already been made, but nothing official had been done about it yet. What is this decision she wondered? ”Humph ” the Balogun signed in his deep voice

”And what is your answer? ” The black being inquired again

”Forgive me for the delay ” the Balogun finally responded ”an old man with grey hair upon his head will never be too hasty in giving a reply especially when that decision will affect his entire village ”

”This village is my responsibility, as the Balogun, it is my duty to protect every life here. It is my oath to Oduduwa and my conscience. This is what makes us Ẹṣọs the true lords of the Yoruba Empire ”

”Those are strong words ” the second being voiced ”but strike the grass with the sharp end of the cutlass, what is your answer, will you accept our offer, think of the benefits. Your village will grow stronger and it will be given far stronger protection than it has now, we will become the hidden shadows protecting Ilu-ino ”

”What are you talking about? ” Ogunlara interrupted, speaking out of turn, with a tone of suspicion in her voice

”Nothing that concerns you little girl ” the third shadow replied, raising its formless hands towards Ogunlara, in an instant she felt all the power in her body drain as if a leech had sucked her life force with a touch, this being had held her spellbound while the others continued their conversation oblivious of her presence.

She didn trust these strange people, why are they concealing their identities or have they made a covenant with the darkness itself? And the negotiations, why does it sound like a conversation between the spider and a fly ”master ” she thought ”please say no ”

”It gladdens my heart that among all the villages in this province, you decided to come to Ilu-ino, any other village would have jumped at this opportunity and I would be a fool to reject it ” the Balogun continued with a half-smile

”So do you agree? ” The black being pressed on

”Yes! ” The Balogun acknowledged ”I agree to your terms ”

Ogunlara felt a lump in her throat, while the strangers stood up to congratulate themselves for a successful meeting.

The second black being stepped forward and addressed the Balogun formally and from the tone of his voice Ogunlara could tell that hes in a jovial mood ”these are my chiefs ” gesturing to the other covered strangers ”they are the ones who have spoken well about this village which is why it was chosen. In two market days, my eagle and the gift of my village will arrive ”

”And I will be waiting ” the Balogun replied

The black beings stood up from their benches and walked towards the front door. The illusion of their appearance can confuse any living thing Ogunlara observed. When they sat down on the stools, it was as though they were ordinary men, but when they stood upon their feet, they seem to expand both in height and in width. The moment they walked outside the door they vanished into thin air and Ogunlara was set free.

”Humph, when will you learn to think before you act ” the Balogun scolded ”they could have killed you ”

”Who are they? ” She demanded, for some reason, the trust she had for this man began to waver ”tell me, who were those people and why have you sold the freedom of the people of Ilu-ino village ”

”The youth of these days ” the Balogun signed, as though he had reached the end of his patience with her ”those men are representatives of the province, in other words, they are our provincial masters ”

”Errrr! ” Ogunlara signed realising her mistake

”You have shamed me ” the Balogun continued ”by insulting my guests ”

”Forgive me master ” Ogunlara pleaded

”You have a lot to learn, ” the Balogun said with a touch of anger in his voice, then he walked away, which is the only way he could overcome the temptation of beating her like a child

Ogunlara felt bad about her actions and also thought about how it shamed her master, how she is ever going to gain his approval. Now she is beginning to doubt if she will ever be ready for the position of Balogun

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