Ẹni tó ńbẹ̀rù àti ṣubú, àti dìde á nira fún un.
Whoever is scared of falling, would find it difficult to rise.
They never passed up an opportunity to celebrate. These were the gods. They had just won their first victory. Should they not be jolly and revel in their might?
Sango sat down on a stool in the hall among the other gods and watched them. Ogun was, as always, trying to drink his way out of existence. The credit for the battle had gone to Sango, and all the other gods were celebrating in his name. But he could feel the cold gaze of Ogun settling on him.
Ogun was a large being, even by god standards. He wore nothing but a dark brown garb. He had a scarred face and a hard set jaw, and he always looked like he was contemplating the best way to kill you. He had blood rimmed weapons at his side and from experience, Sango knew how well he used them.
There was a time before all this, a time before man, a time before war. Now war was all he knew, all he breathed, all he felt. This war they were fighting would break their land apart, and they all knew it and yet, they fought. That’s why it was good that he overthrew Ogun and be came the new general. Left to himself, Ogun would destroy everything. Someone had to keep the him in check.
The great one himself, Shokpona, was also celebrating, telling the others the (exaggerated) stories about his adventures in the human world. He was a large deity, and his skin was covered in swirling white marks that adorned his whole body. One thing that was not exaggerated, however, was the fear the humans had for him. He could cause an epidemic of small pox. Shokpona was not called the great one for nothing.
Elegua was his usual self, playful. He was moving around like a tornado, stealing kisses from the female Orisha. Oba, one of Sango’s four wives was also in attendance. She was dressed in a light blue Iro made of Aṣo-Oke and was adorned with many necklaces and jewels. She was the goddess of the river Oba, which she had chosen just to spite his other wives. She was a dangerous deity and considering their past together, Sango thought it best if he stayed out of her way.
Obatala was also there entertaining the hall by carving out small animals out of clay and giving them to his father, Olorun, to breathe life into them. It was something the gods never got tired of seeing. The wonders of creation!
Eshu had also come to the Great Hall to celebrate even though he had done nothing in the battle. But that was Eshu. He reaped the rewards without ever sowing. He was a trickster by name and nature. If Sango were ever to be asked, he would say Eshu was the most dangerous of the remaining Orisha. He wasn’t the strongest or the fastest, but he was the most manipulative. He was not much to look at since he always took the form of a curious teenager with a slender build and little or no hair on his head. He would’ve passed as a human if not for his eyes. They were green. But their color was the least unnerving thing about them. If stared at long enough, Eshu’s eyes could hold the onlooker under his thrall. They were powerful enough to even sway a god. Eshu walked away drunkenly from the gods he was talking to and walked over to where Ogun was sitting, clapping him on his back while laughing and conversing with him. Not many of the gods could even hope to stand next to Ogun, but he seemed to make an exception of Eshu, as they both laughed and drank.
A cold chill spread along Sango’s back. The humans assumed that the gods were high and mighty and that they did not feel trivial emotions such as fear. But Sango knew very well the truth: they felt it alright, even more so. If Ogun and Eshu united against him, all hell would break loose. He looked over at the Orisha, the ones who were remaining, actually. Something was happening. A darkness was rising, amassing power. He felt it every night, and he knew deep inside him that something was coming.
The Orisha were disappearing, and he could not ignore it any longer. He could feel the sense of unease from the other gods. They were all mighty once. They had stood strong at four hundred and one gods. But at that very moment could only feel the presence of a mere fifty. They were all connected through Olodumare, all branches from the same tree, but it felt like that tree was swiftly being felled by some unknown power. Who or what could be powerful enough to kill not just one god but hundreds of them?
These thoughts paraded around his head. He stood up and exited the hall. He needed to think. He stepped outside and for more than the first time, he stared in awe at the heaven that they had created for themselves.
Humans worshipped them, but the gods—secretly—modeled themselves after the humans. The city of the gods had gold plated houses that glinted in the sun and were as tall as could be. They were arranged in no particular order around the Great Hall. The hall stood at the centre of everything, something akin to a hearth. It was the meeting place of the gods. They met there when there was tragedy or triumph. It was their place of mourning and celebration. Their heaven resembled the town they had called Ile-Ife; it was truly something to behold.
He was thinking of all their new troubles and this oncoming war when he felt a warm familiar hand on his back. He turned around, and he saw, in one person, all he had ever needed or desired.
Oya was his favorite wife of the four. She wore a deep blue buba with nothing but a simple pearl necklace he had given her when they had gotten married. She had a full head of Bantu knots. Her skin was the color of brown earth. Her eyes were a deep blue. They had the power of entrancing the beholder. Her eyes were like Eshu’s but different. Eshu’s eyes inspired fear and wanton violence but just standing next to Oya would make even Ogun feel at ease. Her very presence inspired goodness and peace.
He held her cheek softly, placed one hand on the small of her back and pulled her into a kiss. He loved her so much and would never do anything to hurt her. He just prayed he would never lose her. It was a curious thought, though. To whom should gods pray? He smiled at the thought as Oya pulled away from the kiss in her usual quizzical way.
“My husband,” she asked while placing her hand on his chest. “What things trouble your mind? The others are celebrating, but you’re out here brooding.
He wanted to tell Oya all that was bothering him. He wanted to unload his entire burden on her and tell her things he had never told anyone. But he knew he could not. He would not allow Oya to know the true extent of the danger they were all in. He could not allow her to know the truth. It was too much to bear.
“My wife, nothing is on my mind,” he said as he gently stroked her cheek. “I was just thinking of how soon we could make Eshu leave.”
She gave him that look again, the one that seemed to says, you know that I know that there is more, but I will give you your space.
“Well, whatever is bothering you, just know that I will always be here. No evil, no matter how strong, shall befall us. So come inside and celebrate with us. We were victorious today.” She playfully dragged him back into the hall.
He allowed her to drag him in. He would do anything to make sure that the smile she had on her face remained there. Even with Oya’s kind words, he knew she was wrong about this particular problem.
The gods were disappearing. Some kind of darkness was working against them.
And yes, they had won the battle today, but Sango wondered, at what cost? He will come back for revenge. Sango knew that much.
Amadioha was not one to forget an insult.
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