The Nasty continues…
The Sightings, Lade
The only thing that could stop Prince Nana of Lade from witnessing his brother’s day of glory was a request from the delectable Ama.
She was the most beautiful girl Nana had ever seen, and from the first day he set eyes on her, he fell in love with her. He saw his life in two halves: before Ama, and after Ama.
Before her, he had always been fascinated by – and content with – the studies of the stars and sciences, and by the glorious magical land and its living organisms; he had barely had time to socialize with anybody, the fair maidens included.
He found the parties at the palace boring and could not particularly be bothered about getting to know others. He had been a loner and was happy with that. Violence, of any sort, abhorred him, so he did not partake in any of the sporting events, as a competitor or an observer.
The royal family attended many events without the young prince. Sometimes, when he was forced to attend really important ones, he either left early or sulked throughout. Nana just wanted to read the scrolls and learn from the stars or study the animal kingdom or the water bodies. He was in love with nature and the unknown worlds beyond the stars.
His brother was a warrior, a flamboyant prince who was always present, always visible, always prominent. He was loved and accepted as the future leader of Lade, but in all that it was the quiet second prince Ladeans wanted to see, maybe because of his air of invisibility.
His striking resemblance to his father made many Ladeans wish, in their private sojourns, that he was the one replacing King Haman who had proved to be, perhaps, the best king the Ladean kingdom had ever had.
Nana’s introverted character, cool demeanour, and silent attitude worried his father a great deal. He had felt his son was losing out on the basic beautiful life due to him as a prince, and it saddened him.
He went out of his way to arrange ‘nice coincidental meetings’ for the boy, offering him a chance to meet new friends, especially the female kind, but nothing had worked out.
For seventeen years Prince Nana had lived like a recluse, finding joy in his own company and in his studies, and having more animal friends than Ladeans.
But all that changed when he saw Ama, an event that ushered him into the ‘after Ama’ paradigm.
She came from one of the wealthy families from the First Ebus.
Lade was divided up into twenty ebuses and ranked likewise in terms of power, wealth, position, and influence. The First Ebus was elite citizenry and Twentieth Ebus was made up of the least privileged and poor families.
It was a system Nana had never cared much for, always telling his father that there was a lot that could be done in Lade to bring all ebuses relatively at par, but the kind old man had gently reminded him that it was exactly how it was supposed to be; in any working system, class was a defining factor.
Secondly, some Ladeans had worked their way up from the lower ebuses to the top elite. That, in the words of the king, was just how it would always be.
Nana did not care much about the so-called elite. He had always felt sorry for the comparatively hard life in the lower ebuses and had strived to be at functions and events held at the lower ebuses and largely ignored events at the elite ebuses.
Meeting Ama had not been planned.
They had met at the Sightings, a huge place at the Fifteenth Ebus where many exotic animals were kept in their natural habitats inside cages or pools of water for visitors to watch for a fee. It was owned by a Ladean with a wild side called Davi.
His business had become very popular, and it was the only place where Ladeans from the elite ebuses came to. Normally, they preferred to socialize among themselves to keep the lines of progress etched.
However, Davi’s collection of live and beautiful members of nature had been too much of a lure for some to resist, and they normally trooped to the Fifteenth to enjoy the delights of the Sightings.
There had been attempts to make Davi move the Sightings to the upper ebuses, but he had strongly and stubbornly opposed it. The elitists had tried to make the king step in to either force Davi to move the Sightings to an upper ebus, or have his permit revoked.
Prince Biko had agreed to this because, to a large extent, he found it irksome to visit the Fifteenth too.
But it was the one thing Nana had been passionate about, and roundly opposed its implementation. It had been a clash of sorts but, eventually, Nana’s growing agitation had forced his father to agree to his request to have the Sightings at the Fifteenth.
Aggrieved, some powerful elitists had tried to open something similar at the Third Ebus with a neater environment and availability of better facilities.
What they had failed to realize was that it was more beautiful and fun to enjoy nature in the easy camaraderie with which Davi ran his Sightings than with finesse and the strict application of the rule as was implemented by the competition.
Secondly, Davi loved nature and had a dedicated staff that loved nature, so they understood the wild laws of their craft, and how to make people enjoy their visits.
Not so the elitists. Within a couple of rotations, wild animals in captivity had killed more keepers than was necessary. Eventually, they had sold their stock to Davi and the Sightings had reigned supreme.
And that was where they met, Nana and Ama.
Because life at the lower ebuses could be dangerous, sometimes lethal for wealthy folks, elitists who visited the Sightings usually came with guards. Prince Nana was supposed to be accompanied by a group of warriors, but he never liked it that way.
He found a wild thrill in wearing a simple hooded coat, a wig speckled with grey, and a moustache. Simple disguise but when he walked stooped, he could pass for any normal elderly citizen from the lower ebuses.
This was the disguise he always wore to the Sightings, keeping as much to himself as possible, and so far had managed to fool many people who saw him at the Sightings with none the wiser that he was really the second prince of Lade.
Ama, who loved the Sightings and came regularly with her friends from the First Ebus, had been arguing with them over a strange five-limbed creature Davi had added to his collection.
Passing behind them in his disguise, Prince Nana had known they were all wrong, and he had stopped, holding his long staff and stooped, to explain to them in the voice of an elderly Ladean what exactly the Pesijima creature was.
She had turned suddenly and stared at him, startling him.
Ama was not big-limbed like most ladies. She was of medium build, but incredibly curvy and with a face that was clear and ethereal, her eyes shadowed by long lashes and of a crystal green that had held him spellbound.
“Ah, sir, that is indeed amazing!” she had said. “Come with me, please, even if I have to pay you. For there is a creature of serpentine nature in Slot Five I want to know more about.”
That creature had been a Snaxi, a ferocious predator of the far marshes. Explaining things to her, Nana had found himself reluctant to leave her company.
After that day, he had gone to the Sightings on four consecutive days, but she had not been around, although she had disturbed his nighttime sleep as no one ever had.
Their next meeting had been at the palace.
Nana had been told some visitors from the First Ebus were coming to the palace for dinner. His presence had been required but he had not shown up. He had been in the garden with an ancient scroll when his brother found him, quite irritated with his younger brother and demanded Nana’s presence at the dinner because everyone was asking of him.
Nana had replied quite calmly that he had no urge to be with chatty visitors.
Somewhere in their discourse, when it was becoming heated, as usual, Biko had gone quiet and looked over Nana’s shoulder, a clear indication that a third party had joined them.
And when Nana turned, she was there, staring at him with something close to horror on her face.
“You!” she had whispered with wonder. “You’re him! The Learned One! Oh, but I have sought you sore! Same voice but… but… oh, you were in disguise?”
“What are you talking about, my dear Ama?” Biko had asked with a smile as he stepped forward and took her arm. “Are you perhaps mistaking my uncouth brother for someone else?”
Still stunned, she had seen the desperate look on Nana’s face, and she had wisely nodded her head once.
“Aye, aye, indeed, it must be a mistake!” she had said.
They had walked away with Biko at his nicest, obviously taken in with the beauty of Ama too.
Shocked, Nana had gone to his quarters in turmoil but feeling a delicious cadence to his heart with the words he had heard from her!
She had looked for him too!
As he lay on his bed trying to read several beats of time later, there had been a knock on his door and he had answered in an agitated voice, thinking maybe it was his father, brother, or mother coming to force him to the table.
He had been thinking about it anyway since he saw Ama in the garden. However, when the knock came again, he knew it might be a servant. He walked through the living room to the front door and opened it.
It was indeed a male servant.
But with him was Ama.
“Sorry to disturb you, Your Highness,” the servant said and bowed low. “But…”
“It is alright, Zit,” Nana said. “I have a need to see her too.”
He had seen Ama flexing her fingers in an agitated manner, her face strained and a bit sweaty, but his words had made her look up sharply, and a smile as beautiful as his favourite star had split her face.
With her in the room, with the door shut, she had suddenly moved into him and thrown her arms around his neck.
“Oh, please, please, my prince, I have to do this otherwise I’ll be hit with the nervousness and probably not be able to see you again, but I so much want to see you now that I know you’re not old but the grand prince I had always wanted to meet, oh!”
“Do what exactly, my lady?” Nana had asked.
And, leaning forward, she had given him his first kiss, so full of wonder and sweetness and which had made his heart hammer so frenetically that he had been afraid the poor organ would just jump out of his chest and skip out of the window.
That was the day he lost his heart to Ama, and that was why he could not say no to her when she told him there was a strange creature at the Sightings she wanted to see.
Incidentally, that day had clashed with Biko’s day of glory, and he had explained to her but for once she had been adamant.
“Oh, Nana, my love!” she had cried. “They say it is quite a sight, and Davi would take it back to the wild after today. Oh, for a chance to lay my eyes on it! Can’t we go early and come back in time for you to at Prince Biko’s Crown Claim?”
Put like that, the gentle Nana could not say no.
And that was why, on the day his father was cruelly murdered by a fake prince and a wicked Sage, Prince Nana found himself several ebuses away at the Fifteenth.
Everybody was talking about the strange creature.
There was a crowd at Slot One. Evidently, Davi had felt this creature deserved to be in his first cage at the entrance, and it had turned out to be a bad idea because the entrance was choked with people.
Normally, they would have been waiting patiently at home for news that Prince Biko had successfully claimed his life crown.
However, news of this new creature had travelled quickly, and for once the elitists had mingled with the lower ebuses to witness what was, to them, an unnatural beast from a mysterious habitat.
From the moment Ama and Nana got down from the commercial carriage to the time they finally arrived at the grounds of the Sightings, they had met many people speaking in quiet tones and making gestures about the creature, and this had aroused Nana’s interest greatly.
There had been a long queue at the entrance, and this had further dampened Nana’s spirits because, evidently, Biko’s crown claim would be over by the time he went through that queue and later travelled all the way back to the royal ebus where the palace was.
Ama had wanted to use her feminine charms to jump the queue but Nana would not have any of it; he was that kind of man.
“Ah, my darling, you do incur my ire sometimes with that attitude!” she whispered at him fiercely. “As the royal prince you should just throw the disguise aside, and these people would bow to you and give you the privilege to the Sightings! Prince Biko would not have hesitated!”
“You’re with me, dearest Ama,” he replied calmly.
It had taken some time, perhaps more than he had anticipated, but finally, they had paid their fees and entered. Getting to the cage, though, had proved to be another battle because it seemed no one wanted to move away.
Davi had been forced to allot staying time to visitors that day, and his staff went around shooing people whose times had expired and directed them through the exit gates.
Perhaps, the most macabre fact of all was the silence of the crowd as they stared at whatever was in the cage.
This time, Ama did not listen to Nana’s protestations to wait for their turn at the cage. She held his hand and used her feminine charms to cleave a way through the throng of bodies.
“Sorry, please, give a lady a bit of way, please,” she kept saying as she dragged the prince along.
And when they were finally in front, and she took one look at the creature inside the cage, she shrieked!
That wail from Ama sounded abnormally horrible because there had been relative silence all around, and it was uttered in the highest note Ama’s vocal cords could muster. She turned her back on the cage immediately and pressed herself close to the prince, and as he held her he felt her shivering rather violently in her terror.
Nana understood that passionate reaction from Ama as he held her and looked at that thing inside the cage.
Nothing could have prepared him for what he saw!
His heart hammered with the initial rude shock as he beheld that horrible creature. It was something brownish, and hairy on its body.
The spiky brown hair was all over its body and across the middle of its head. It had two arms and two legs, but it could not stand. Rather, it moved along the length of the cage slowly on all four limbs.
Its body was gnarled and crumpled, its fingers and toes many, like ten on each limb.
It had three tails, each with an arrow-like knob at the end. It was not so grotesque if looked at from its head down, but what made it so terrible to look at was its face!
A brown, gnarled, aged face with skin crumpled around the eyes and the huge nose, its mouth as wide as the length of its lower face. It had huge, broad ears and its eyes were very dark. It was unsmiling, and there was a savage expression on that hellish face!
It looked so evil, that face, and that was what was spooking the crowd. It opened its mouth and the people gasped with horror when they saw its forked tongues! It had about five forked tongues in its mouth, and a sickening, sticky gooey dropped from its mouth on the bare ground.
And that spit – or whatever it was – scorched the earth, and caused a horrible blast of smoke to rise!
On a placard at the lower part of the cage, Davi had written two words in black: Hwe Kakai
It was the Ladean words for The Nasty.
Then, for one horrible moment, as Ama trembled against Nana, something quite baffling happened: there was absolute silence!
All sounds died down and it was as if at that moment in time, even heartbeats paused, and that was the exact moment Nana’s eyes met those of the creature, and they stared at each other!
It was such a defining moment that Ama raised her head, almost in slow motion, and stared first at Nana before she turned and looked at the creature; the stare between the prince and that horrible thing did not go unnoticed by the beautiful girl.
Suddenly, the nasty thing opened its mouth and its tongues beat horribly around its face causing a drop of greenish acidic saliva to hit the ground where it erupted suddenly into a blast of fire, died out, and emitted a puff of smoke.
That effectively broke the lethargic inaction of the crowd. Fuelled by their fear and mistrust of the unknown, they reached a damning decision when someone yelled out:
“Kill it! Kill the demonic creature!”
It began then, a collective mass of people galvanized into action. Nana watched, horrified, as they rushed towards the cage. They threw stones and clubs and swords at the creature.
Nana noticed the fear that crossed that ancient face as it scuttled towards the farthest reaches of the cage with terror, folding its three tails between its hind legs!
It was struck with many objects!
Knives whistled through the bars thudded into the creature as it curled itself into a protective ellipse-shaped structure. The crowd jostled Nana and Ama in their mad rush to the cage.
“Stop it, stop it this instant!” Nana screamed as he dashed forward.
Ama tried to hold him back but he was gone, pushing people out of his way blindly until he was near the cage where he turned to face them and raised his hands.
“Stop it!” he shouted at them. “You’re hurting it!”
His body was effectively depriving them of direct access to the creature.
“Move aside!” cried a tall, broad-shouldered youth in the front row who was holding a huge piece of rock. “Move aside, old man!”
“No!” Nana cried, holding out his arms. “You are scared of it, I know, but that doesn’t mean you should kill it!”
“Move aside, you old fool!” cried another young man. “Move, or we’ll smack you too!”
“Stop it!” Nana cried, holding out his hands. “Don’t you dare!”
The strapping lad with the stone looked at Nana with pugnacious fury, and he took quick steps towards him, grabbed him by the shoulder and raised the rock in his hand.
“Will you step aside, or do I have to thump you?” he asked belligerently.
Nana stood a full head taller than the lad, and he was better developed, but he was quite afraid of this violence aimed at him, and he raised his hands defensively.
“Please, don’t hurt me, and don’t hurt that poor animal,” he jabbered in a scared voice. “Please, I beg of you, leave it alone!”
The huge lad screamed and thumped the rock in his hand into Nana’s belly. The prince groaned and began to fall down. The boy smashed him again on the back of his head with a hard fist, driving Nana to the ground!
Three of the bully’s friends rushed forward and began to kick Nana on the ground, their faces twisted with hatred.
“Kill him!” they shouted. “Wizard! Devil worshipper!”
Ama was horrified as the crowd chanted their approval of what was happening. She rushed forward blindly shouting at stridently.
“Leave him alone! Leave him alone! He’s the prince!” she screamed.
They did not listen to her; indeed, they were so crazed in their fear and the frenzy of their fury that they obviously did not hear her.
Frantically, she pushed three of them aside and knelt beside the curled body of the prince, horrified to see his face covered with blood. She bundled him into her arms and drew back his hood first.
“Get out of there, whore!” someone shouted.
Ama looked at them with horror, aware that they would turn their fear on her and beat her to a pulp. She looked up dazedly and saw several of the people drawing back their hands to let objects fly.
The four youths in the front had their hands raised clutching rocks.
There was nothing she could do!
She ripped off the prince’s wig and tore off his moustache, revealing Nana’s face.
“He’s the prince, you idiots!” she screamed.
She saw the dismay, terror and chagrin on the faces of the people around her immediately.
They dropped their weapons fast as they stared at the prince with horror.
Then, almost on one accord, they all fell on their right knees and bowed to the second prince of Lade!
To be continued tomorrow…[insert-comment-form]
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