…Blasphemy (A prequel)
Tanko rode back to his home, a mansion almost the size of Nazir’s, though not as wide nor decorated. He was a simple man who had nothing to his name but his bloodline, his religion and his principles. Everything else found their way within the confines of these beliefs, family and friends inclusive. He walked into the house, quickly welcomed by the servants. He made for his quarters and to a cold waiting bath. The weather was hot and the wind strangely strong. Soaked in his bath water, he thought about what Tazir had said earlier that day. As much as he chose to ignore it, it was a spit on all his beliefs, a direct ridicule against the decisions of the Sarki, against the kingdom.
Tanko felt Nazir thought life too easy and without regulations or ideals. He believed with veracity that principles were things bound to change at the advent of any sweet words or philosophies which appeared better. Thinking about this, Tanko sighed in annoyance. That was a useless and weak way a viewing any world which existed in any realistic sense.
He believed ideals and principles were things which shaped kingdoms, built men into warriors, led them into wars, into love, into unions and affiliations. Ideals, whatever form they took, were foundations on which laws and morality was built. They were grounds on which a society was to exist and flourish. They were meant to be perfect, because for everyone led, they represented hope, justice, order and peace. They were not meant to be shaken weak nor wrong. They weren’t meant to be subject to change with time, because the chance of one change equalled the repetition of more changes, paving way for the rise and fall of everything men, like him, spilled blood and lost lives to establish.
Tanko knew of some of what Nazir spoke about. Being an advisor to the Sarki himself, he was privileged to know of the Sarki’s decisions. A huge war loomed in the air from across the Sahara. The Ijanja tribe had their eyes set on Tibidi, and for this the king needed to take Niqan. He needed that temple. He needed what was within it. That was Tibidi’s survival with little casualties.
Niqan was never going to let Tibidi have hold of their most sacred temple. They weren’t going to give away its location either. This battle with them was both necessary and inevitable if Tibidi was to stand a chance against the Ijanjas. Even if Nazir had little or no knowledge regarding why the Sarki needed Niqan, Tanko thought, at least he ought to have trusted in the Sarki’s words. His words were law and the will of the heavens. His words were sacred. Nothing to Tanko was as disappointing as the manner in which Nazir had spoken today regarding the Sarki’s decision, especially as it put him to test between his loyalty to the kingdom and his friendship with Nazir.
Tanko turned to the door which had a veil on it blocking away anyone from the small bathroom. It was his daughter’s voice. He felt annoyed as he’d instructed to not be disturbed.
“What is it, Hakuri?” he said.
“Mother said to tell you a messenger just arrived. He says he has a letter from Alhaji Nazir,” she responded.
Tanko, shortly after, dressed and came down the house to meet the messenger. It was a familiar face yet something about the language of his body made him curious. The messenger reached for his bag and pulled out two letters wrapped and sealed, bowed as he handed them to Tanko.
“Alhaji Nazir said to give those to you,” he said.
Tanko bid him a bye having failed to figure out why he looked unquiet, and as the messenger rode off, he turned back to the house, making way for the garden at the back of the building, a place where his students usually trained. A place where Hakuri trained too.
Not too far from the open space, he could hear the boys and girls training. He could hear their roars as they practiced moves he’d taught them last. There were a total of forty dalibai under him who currently were the only ones across the kingdom gifted for the Dusk. These students spanned across various ages, and had been under him for a full year, gathered because of the coming war, although they knew nothing about it.
It was, as he’d learned, more common in that shred of rarity to find children gifted with the will of the sun than those with the will of the desert like Nazir and Zainab. In fact, compared to the will of the sun, of healing, of vision, and that of the wild, the gift of the desert was considered noble and the purest of all gifts, so much that just a few outside the Tafawa family displayed its potential. And even then, just the Tafawa family possessed the strongest forms of this gift.
This had been how he and Nazir had met. Nazir was from a noble line of men who had made wealth and history for Tibidi. He was unique even outside the privileges of his bloodline, and Tanko admired his resilience and intelligence. Tanko traced his bloodline differently. Nobility had come to his family during his grandfather’s time, a man quite different and mentally strong unlike his father: strong, brave, and ambitious. A mere herdsman who had served others and worked his way into the Palace, building wealth and trust for himself and his descendants, all from nothing.
Tanko felt bothered about these memories as he stopped just behind a blockade, mostly because it implied something he was upset about. He found Hakuri seated with one of the girls, a few years older than she was. They both weren’t training but instead watching the others do. Behind them however, they’d not sensed his presence, much like everyone else.
“You are knitting again?” the girl said. “Wouldn’t your father be upset? He doesn’t like it, and you haven’t learned the last move he’d taught us yet.”
Hakuri raised her shoulders. “He won’t know. Besides, I do not really care about the will of the Dusk. I’m only doing it because he wants me to. There’s so much more to this place, the world, than learning how to use my gift for the Palace. If I can travel around the world, maybe my destiny lies there. Maybe I would find it. Something, I don’t know. Like the South for instance.”
“The South? Why would you want to go there?”
“I heard it’s large and more different from here. I made a friend from there. His name is Efosa. His father is a merchant who’d come here for trade. He showed me their literatures and artworks. They’re so different and beautiful.”
“How did you meet him? What does the look like? Can I take a look at the artworks with you next time?”
“Maybe. If I’m allowed to escort Shekara and Babba to Kano by the next moon. They come every month.”
Tanko watched them both. He was steep with disappointment. There was a time he would have picked a whip and lashed these two idlers and had them hung on trees for the amusement of everyone else, even his herd of cattle. But today was not one of those days.
He sighed. “Hakuri.”
Both girls sprang to their feet, tensed, ridden with terror at Tanko’s presence. His face was as stoic as always, and his eyes moved from one to the other. Hakuri was petrified, unsure how long her father had been standing there, and how much he had heard.
“Malami!” the girl gasped.
“Uba,” Hakuri muttered, both the same time, “If I return to this place and you have not learned the last thing I taught you all, and to accurate perfection, you will regret being born.” His eyes were on the girl, voice deep and threatening. Taking his succeeding silence as a cue, she bowed and sped back into the pool of students.
Noticing Hakuri’s head bent to avoid his eyes, he exhaled, shook his head. “Why were you born?”
The question took Hakuri by surprise. First it came off as one of regret, giving the disappointing tone in his voice. When she looked up, heart pained, to meet his eyes, she saw his gaze still were on her, waiting for something. It wasn’t rhetoric. It was a question.
“For everyone and everything born into this world, there is a purpose by their being born. The full understanding and realization of this purpose is called fate. Whoever believes otherwise is a fool. Whoever believes they are born to live and then die is even worse, because they lack purpose. They lack meaning. Any child born without purpose is born by error, an accepted mistake which shouldn’t have been. It isn’t a curse, it is what it implies.
“Some are born so they’d become heirs to thrones, to kingdoms; some to carry their family’s name to greater heights. Some to sustain that name; some to comfort their parents. Some to serve their brothers and sisters, some as tools of revenge against others. Some as agents of chaos. It doesn’t matter what, but there is a purpose behind every conception. And behind that purpose lies an expectation.”
Hakuri stood, eyes on her father as he stared into the vast yard, watching the young boys and girls train. Some played around, but train nonetheless. The question behind these words strangely lurked within her mind, seeking answers. For the first time in a while she felt bothered by his words.
“You are my eighth child, and like your brothers, as I’ve scattered them around, you were born with a purpose in mind. It doesn’t matter what you personally desire or choose outside of it. Whatever adds zero value to the progress of your kingdom or family is a selfishness which the gods shall duly pay back in double fold one way or the other.
“We take from the world, from nature, from the gods. Fate simply is a demand that you give back in return. How you choose to blend your desires and your purpose, is a purview of yours alone. So I ask you again, now as a question. Why do you think you were born?”
Hakuri stood, lost in the words even more than she’d thought she would. It judged her, condemned her. Somehow it made her feel she was being a disappointment, being selfish. Something lurked deep in her heart, but couldn’t be accessed by her. Of course her father wanted her to be better, to be stronger, to expand her abilities. But it was deeper than that. He wanted more, and that ‘more’ was her purpose. But she didn’t know what it was.
Tanko turned and headed back to his room. Inside he took sit for himself and opened the seal on the first letter given to him. Something, as he observed, was strange about the second letter. It had no seal of identity on it. He kept it by the table and went through the first. It was Nazir’s hand writing alright, as neat as always.
“Tanko, I suppose you feel I had stepped beyond my bounds in our discuss today. Maybe I had, maybe you are correct, I cannot tell. And while I apologise to said offense, I do not take back my thoughts. None of this is to ridicule the Sarki or the divinity of his ordination. It is rather to appeal to something deeper than yours or my loyalty to the Sarki: our conscience.
“Yes, people die. Sometimes it is necessary. But a genocide? Very unnecessary, especially for that which is unjustifiable nor ours to claim. The Temple Of Promise, its content, might be important to us, but in truth, it is ours to neither take nor demand. If it must be taken, then with grace at least.
“The Sarki will not end at just taking down Niqan, because he will find temples there but not the one he seeks. He will hunt them all down, every single Niqan, because this is the only way to find that temple. I have been within those lands. Heathens, but they are people, innocent and peaceful. Making a peaceful dialogue with them would take time to get them to give us what they hold as sacred, but it could get us what we want still.
“Admittedly, I do have deeper reasons why I wish we not lay siege on Niqan, but at the height of it all, death at such magnitude should only be a necessity. This is my take on what the will of the gods would have been if—”
Tanko closed the the letter, irritated by it, the hypocrisy and naivety littered in it. This was a mask of compassion just to hide the two reasons he ever had a relationship with Niqan, one being his child hidden away there. He despised the inability of people to understand the commonest of things. For one, he was convinced Niqan were no peaceful nor innocent people. He had lost a wife to their madness. The only difference however between him and Nazir was that his support for Tibidi’s battle against Niqan wasn’t borne out of sentiment and his resentment for them, but rather the survival of Tibidi. Nazir however, as he thought, masked sentiment and self preservation around his ideals. Tanko hated when such sense of individualistic tendencies manifested as against the success of a greater good, a lesser evil.
He picked up the second letter, discarding the first without finish, and would have same with the second letter had he not seen the word ‘dole’ on its body, and in a handwriting not Nazir’s. He opened it, then sprang to his feet, face first masked with shock, then quickly morphing into wroth. His heart leaped in terror as he read through the words.
“Alhaji, Nazir has been in contact with persons from Niqan. He has leaked information regarding the intended battle with them. They plan to do something at the Palace by evening and they have a map of the Palace. Beneath the mat under his bed is a secret hole where his letters are hidden. Save the Sarki.”
“Taiji!” Tanko roared aloud, so loud the building would have trembled were it paper. “Taiji!”
Footsteps through the short stairs ushered Taiji into the room, his face marked by surprise, unsure what would have prompted the call, and with such fierce tone. He looked across the Alhaji, noticing the paper in his quivering grip.
“Alhaji,” he said.
“Prepare my horse, gather all the men, pick out the best Dusk users in that yard and ready for the Palace now!” Tanko barked, rage and anxiousness boiling through his heart.