The Halo Breed…
THE HALO BREED
IN THE HALOS
A WEEKEND STORY
The Koben Warriors had, from time immemorial, drawn strength, courage, and direction from their indestructible prince Junki Parla. He was their force, their essence, their indefatigable source of power and direction. He had led them from one victory to the other until they decided to attack Densua.
And here he was lying at the feet of the dreaded Gus Kukah.
They stared with disbelief, grief, and fear as the fight was ripped savagely out of their wings.
Gus Kukah knew this grief could turn to rage and blood-seeking fire for revenge if the initiative was not forced to amplify their sense of loss.
“Warriors of Koben, we respect you!” he shouted, his voice filled with arrogance and fury. “We defended our land, our children and our wives against your invasion! Indeed, we have no war with you but you had a war with us! We wish for no further bloodshed. You can take your bodies and weapons and go back home, and we will allow you because we do not seek to enslave any of you. However, if you remain standing here, we shall cut every single one of you down and only your ghosts would go back to your homeland! And you must remember, I do not repeat myself, and my mercy always has a funny way of dissipating!”
The Koben warriors breathed with relief in their confusion and then they began to retreat.
Their resolve and thirst were broken and they were rendered impotent.
They put their prince on a palanquin and then they helped their wounded warriors to their feet or on put them om makeshift stretchers as best as they could…and began the laborious process of retreat.
The warriors of Densua followed them to make sure they indeed were returning to Koben.
Kobby Obeng stopped beside Gus Kukah and put a hand on his shoulder.
“You’re a great man, Gus,” he said calmly. “Densua owes you. Another great victory.”
The remaining warriors of Densua broke into spontaneous applause then, drawing a faint smile from Gus Kukah.
The warriors had formed a tight circle around Gus and were shouting out his name in a frenzy as they raised their swords and spears to the sky. As the cacophony rose to deafening decibels, Gus Kukah raised both hands with his palms facing downwards and moved them up and down three times in a gesture for silence.
The noise levels gradually died down.
“Densua Warriors!” he shouted, his expression fierce, and a wild roar went up in the air from the warriors.
“Our lives for Densua!”
“You fought well!” Gus continued. “Your blood and sweat stain this filthy field. You stood your ground against the enemy to protect our families, our lands, our king. Tonight, we will mourn our brothers who lost their lives. Tomorrow, we will return home. In the name of King Ato Baffour Koduah, I congratulate you, I celebrate you, and I thank you. Live large!”
“Live free!” the warriors roared in a booming unison and then began to chant his name again as they moved around congratulating each other.
Gus Kukah and Kobby Obeng approached the huge white-topped royal tent.
The two warriors standing on guard on each side of the entrance of the tent nodded briefly. Their spears were slanted sideways to form an ‘X’ that blocked the entrance but they quickly straightened them to allow their senior officers to pass.
Kobby pulled the flap aside and waited for Gus to enter first.
The huge, comfortable interior of the tent was lighted with soft candles and elegant lanterns.
The floor was covered with soft carpet made from cowhide.
There was a huge conference area of sorts to the left, replete with a huge white green felt board. To the right side was a dining area. Just beyond that was a partition that separated these two portions from the sleeping quarters.
There were other guards here too and once again, they nodded and stepped aside to allow the two men to enter into the sleeping quarters of King Ato Baffour Koduah.
There was a huge comfortable bed at the far end.
The carpet here was white and had more hair woven into it to give it a richer texture. There was a bathroom area cordoned off with another sheet. Near the entrance was a sitting-area made up of low stuffed mats and cushions.
King Koduah turned from the window with a smile on his old, craggy face. He was seventy years old but he still stood tall and sprightly. He had been a large man so the flesh, loosened with age, now hung in little folds from his face and around his arms. The king was dressed in a long white gown that reached to his ankles and his feet were encased in a pair of ahenemma sandals.
“Ahh, Gus, my revered commander, do come in, come in,” he said in a pleasant, booming voice.
Gus and Kobby knelt on their right knees and bowed their heads.
“Your Majesty, live long,” they said almost in unison.
“Enough of that already, you two,” the king said impatiently. “Get up this instant. Ahh, Gus, I need to bow to you, son. Once again, you have saved our home!”
“The gods favoured us, my King,” Gus said gently, and it was evident that he did love the king very much. “And the bravery of my men was, once again, beyond human comprehension.”
The king grabbed Gus by his upper arms and looked into his eyes with gratitude and love.
“Even so, the land’s greatest warrior stood tall,” he said and hugged Gus warmly.
“Indeed, he did, as always,” Kobby said with a smile.
The king turned and shook Kobby’s hand.
“And to you, able lieutenant, well done,” he said warmly. “Do sit down, please. Let’s dine and celebrate this victory together!”
Conversing in low tones and filled with relief and happiness, the three went back to the dining area where they were served by female royal attendants dressed in low skirts and loose tops.
The wine was of the best quality. The food comprised of tender meat soups and delicious grain meals that were incredibly delicious.
“We go back home tomorrow,” King Baffour said. “Hopefully, this is the last war we would face in a while.”
“I do hope so, Your Majesty,” Gus said as he pushed a bit of tender lamb into his mouth. “With the mighty Koben finally defeated, it will send a strong message to greedy kings to stay away from Densua.”
“My heart is gladdened for a fact,” King Baffour said. “My last years shall know peace and that is all a king can ask for. With happy people not threatened by war, we shall continue to prosper, and I can join my ancestors in peace. Gus, my boy, I hear rumours that your loins do prod you in a particular direction.”
Kobby laughed gaily at that.
“Aye, aye, Your Majesty, you did hear right,” he said in a happy voice. “Gus tells me he will finally settle down and marry the love of his life, Sarai.”
“A fair and strong woman, I do gather, from a good family,” the king said with a smile. “It will be a day of joy in Densua, indeed. Your marriage will be a wonderful royal occasion!”
Gus Kukah smiled behind his beard.
“I was thinking of a little less fanfare, Your Majesty,” he said softly. “Sarai and I decided on a little solemn ceremony.”
“Bullshit, Gus!” the king said exuberantly. “Your father was my best friend, Gus, and he lost his life in war defending the throne of Densua! You were born into war, and from infancy you have stood strong and filled your father’s shoes, spilling your blood for this land! There is no greater patriot than you, Gus Kukah! Indeed, you should have been a prince worthy of the throne of Densua. To me, you are a son and that makes you a prince. Your wedding shall be a royal one, I declare, and the throne shall give you and your new bride a fitting home and servants and finery!”
“Ah, Your Majesty, that is a tad to the extreme, if I should say so,” Gus Kukah said, and he looked a little worried. “When I’m not a warrior, I am a farmer. My land and house on the borders of the Pale Lands are enough for me.”
“You can give that as a gift, or keep it as a memento, my dear Gus,” the king said firmly. “That area is even dangerous because no man dares to live near the Pale Lands. I worry about you all the time about those infernal beasts inside the Pale Lands. But your new land is available, together with a small castle and servants and gold. And you will accept this small gesture on my part without complaint because Densua owes you!”
Gus Kukah looked at his king for a long time and realized there was no way the old man, who indeed was like a father to him, was going to back down on his offer.
He sighed and bowed his head low.
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” Gus said finally. “May you live long!”
“Better!” the king said warmly and smiled. “Now, let’s eat and wine! Tonight, the stars of victory smile down on us!”
And, much later when they finished eating and drinking, the king commanded Gus Kukah to wait for a while because he wanted a private word with him.
Kobby Obeng nodded and bowed. He left the tent quickly.
A little drunk, Gus Kukah stared at the king with raised eyebrows.
The old king faced Gus with hard eyes.
“We will talk at length when we get to Densua, my son,” he said softly. “But, before we embark on that anticipated journey, my spirit moves me greatly, and my soul rather torments, that I should do what I’m about to do.”
Gus looked at the king with incomprehension.
“Your Majesty, my king, perhaps my brain is dulled by the deception of the accursed wine,” he said softly. “I do not comprehend your words.”
“You would in a moment, son,” King Ato Baffour Koduah said as he suddenly put a hand on his forehead and closed his eyes. He muttered some words Gus could barely hear and suddenly a bright golden light appeared on the king’s forehead and under the hand on his forehead.
“What?” Gus murmured with confusion as his eyes narrowed.
The king suddenly made a pulling gesture and the bright light seemed to come out of his forehead and filled his right hand. Panting, he held out his hand and Gus Kukah saw an incredible ring in the palm of the king!
It was glittering rather amazingly, filled with gems and diamonds and gold, an incredible artefact that could not have been crafted by humans.
“Is that…is that what I think it is?” Gus Kukah whispered, awed and humbled immediately.
“And what do you think it is?” the king asked in a raspy, tired voice.
“I’ve heard of the story…” Gus said faintly. “Of five Elemental Totems…of the spirit of Earth. Totems that hold the keys that guard our lands against some…evil entities…keeps the earth on a balance. My father told me about it once, but I guess he was drunk and regretted doing so! He was angry with himself for telling me about it when I asked him in the morning to continue because I did not understand. He made me swear never to mention it again, to him or any other living soul.”
“A wise man, your father, greater than all of us,” the king said sombrely. “Ah, yes, I promise to tell you all about this totem after your marriage, and not before. But you must keep it now.”
He took a step forward and Gus Kukah’s face became alarmed as he took fast steps backwards, his expression one of horror.
“No, my king!” he cried frantically. “What are you doing?”
“Be still, Gus Kukah, and do not question my intellect!” the king said harshly.
“No, sir, Your Majesty, I’m afraid I should!” Gus said as the alcohol cleared from his head immediately with the horrible import of the king’s actions. “We’ve had wine to drink and our brains are mocked by the seductions of alcohol, my king! Perhaps, you should sleep and think about this folly! I cannot…no, I absolutely refuse to have anything to do with that totem!”
“As stubborn as your father, boy!” the king said harshly. “I did not take enough wine to get drunk! It will take barrels of wine to make me drunk because my system is made up of two-thirds wine and just a third of water! I’m in absolute control of my faculties, young man, so do not dare to impugn deficiencies with my brain!”
Gus Kukah’s hands trembled with fear as he pointed at the totem in the palm of the king.
“Then you should know, sir, that what you’re holding should never part from you as long as you’re the king! At least my father told me that much! And, if you’ve taken it off, it must go to your son, the heir to the throne, Prince Daniel Baffour Koduah! Your only son should be responsible for that, sir! Not me! He’s going to be king after you! I beg of you, sir, please, if you must part with that, give it to whom it is truly due…your son!”
“You will not dare question your king, warrior!” the king roared with sudden fury.
“Sir!” Gus almost shouted. “You must know there is bad blood between me and your son! He hates me to the high kingdoms, and I cannot say I have any fond spots for him! If he knows you have done such a thing, performed such an atrocity…it will trigger something you might not be able to stand, my Lord!”
“Stop waxing in the notion of fools!” the king rasped furiously. “I know you, and I know my son, and I definitely know what I’m doing! This totem goes beyond Densua and beyond towns and kingdoms! It represents a part of the stability of mankind. As I said, you will know about it when I want you to know the whole truth, but for now, you will wear it!”
“No!” Gus shouted now. “For this, I will go against my king and refuse! I do not accept this and you cannot let me accept it!”
Gus Kukah knelt and held up his clasped hands in supplication.
The king moved forward suddenly without warning and slapped the totem on Gus’ forehead as he began to murmur some strange words!
The young man groaned as he was flung to the floor where he began to thrash furiously as if a thousand watts of electricity were being passed through him. His mouth foamed as the totem began to dig into his forehead, lighting up his whole head as if there was a huge bulb inside his head.
Finally, the totem disappeared completely into his forehead as the king knelt beside him and continued to speak.
Eventually, Gus Kukah stopped thrashing.
He sighed greatly and sat up with a huge grin on his face.
“Sorry, Your Majesty,” he said wistfully. “Must have had too much wine tonight. Seems I slept on the floor.”
The king nodded warily as he got to his feet.
He knew Gus Kukah did not remember anything of what had just happened. The transfer of the totem had been successful.
The old king breathed with relief.
“Go to your quarters, young man,” he said in a tired voice. “This old man needs his sleep.”
Giggling and shaking his head, Gus Kukah left the king’s royal tent.
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